Being Vulnerable

Staying open, staying available, being willing to trust sometimes, being open to being touched… this is all difficult territory for me and has been so for a long time. These are the places my anxiety builds its nests. None of it is irrational. Without exception, it is people I have let get close to me who have done me the most damage. The idea of being vulnerable can suggest something truly threatening.

But, to connect with another person in any way means taking off at least some of the armour, retracting the spikes, not waiting for the blow to land. The question is, when to do that? Who to trust? When to decide that it’s worth admitting where I feel fragile and exposed, where things are difficult for me, what I feel keenly.

I know from bitter and repeated experience that sometimes, when you show someone where you are vulnerable, they will stick claws into that part of you and start tearing. And until you have shown them that openness, they probably won’t show you those claws, or their willingness to use them.

There have been a number of rounds this year of getting this right. Trusting the right people. Picking a passably good time to drop guard. With the right people, vulnerability opens the door to magical possibility. Sometimes people come back and are vulnerable in return, sharing their own truths, difficulties and tender spots. When that happens, the whole quality of the relationship shifts. Deeper trust becomes more available.

I think I’ve got better too at venturing small acts of trust that don’t leave me over-exposed, and then judging the results. There are things I have learned to look for – the people who come back with some sign of care, or empathy, or who are simply glad to have been trusted, or open up and share their own story in return. I also look out for people who respond competitively with a ‘my problems are worse than yours’ approach. I watch out for anything dismissive, careless, disinterested. If anyone puts me down at this point, calls me a drama queen or anything of that ilk, I no longer take that as a measure of me, but a measure of them. I put my armour back on and I go away.

I’ve started trusting my gut feelings more on this one as well. We take in more information than we can consciously process, and a gut-feeling is not an irrational thing. The more I trust my gut feelings about people the better I do around deciding who to trust, and when to keep my armour firmly in place. I deal with a lot of people in the normal scheme of things, increasingly I make snap decisions about who to let in and who to keep at arm’s length. Thus far, these have gone well for me. I’ve jumped into some very heart open interactions. I can’t prove that the people I kept at arm’s length it was as well to – but then I don’t have to, I am not (and it’s taken me a long time to realise this) obliged to justify these choices to anyone.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

9 responses to “Being Vulnerable

  • Labrys

    I have long used heart-shaped ornaments and objects in my home as a visual commandment to myself to stay open and vulnerable. Sometimes I can feel those “doors” slam shut anyway and it can take months to pry them open. In times of deep new trauma, the odd glass heart has been pulled off a wall and crushed under foot – a “mazel tof” of catharsis. But the (heart)beat goes on.

  • Ladysag77

    I really enjoyed your insight and examples of your own behavior surrounding trust. I tend to be overly trusting because my mother is a person who doesn’t trust anybody. I am an intuitive empath so I pick up on other’s feelings and thoughts energetically. I myself tend to intellectualize my feelings to protect my vulnerability. I enjoy reading about how others handle interpersonal relationships. Growing up around a lot of dysfunction created issues for me that I’m still trying to unravel. Great post😊

  • tarotlenormandcards

    For a couple of years I lived in a place , a wasteland, where no living things could come to me, in everyday words I did not feel anything, because I had had to shut down and build an ice tower around my heart, not let it be hurt any more. After a while I realized that this leads to death, so I made efforts to open up. First I was able to feel and being touched by little animals’ suffering, – we started rescuing cats – and at the same time I started to feel joy as well…. It was a long process transforming back from a machine into a human being again who is able to accept help, and provide help as well. Now I know that being hurt is not the worst thing in my life. But at the same time I have made my very own invisible armor:) – invisible because others do not see it, but it keeps those away, who want to harm, or even just do not understand. It is a mixture of kind, humorous, or even enigmatic speech, behaviour, wearing certain clothes, using the knowledge about colours etc. It is not rude, it does not hurt anybody, just a little bit manipulative. And I definitely learnt to trust my gut feelings… Now I am much more open, – for my teenage daughter’s taste a little bit too much:) – than earlier, because I feel safer and because I know that there are many who are just right now in the process of shutting down…..I am open , when I meet people, who need it, need somebody to talk to, we do not have to agree on things… And certainly it is a celebration when I meet somebody at a bus stop, festival etc, who understands ( without an object)… see this in their eyes, no need for words.

  • ingvenning

    Great post! Vulnerability is something I’m working with so much right now in my life. I used to be vulnerable with nearly everyone, and I also got hurt badly. Now I’m trying to make sure I do a good job of choosing the people who get close to me. I also appreciate your willingness to be open and vulnerable on your blog. I am realizing that it’s tough to be vulnerable in writing, especially when a lot of people (including strangers) will see it. I often have to take a deep breath and say a prayer before I post about things like my OCD, or write from an outsider’s point of view when I know some people won’t like it. But I’m glad when I do. I’m learning to let the negative comments and attitudes slide off me, while being very grateful for the positive and supportive ones.

  • Tim Waddington

    This may seem a little woo-woo, but I sincerely believe that our expectations affect our experiences both of other people and situations. If one meets someone new who seems untrustworthy or suspect, and treats them accordingly, usually one’s suspicions will be confirmed. If one has the courage (and it does take courage) to realise that they are presenting themselves in such a way because they themselves are also wounded, and try to offer them the opportunity to behave decently, as often as not, they will respond positively. This is not easy if you have often experienced abusive behaviour (I am speaking from experience), but like any change one is trying to achieve, it gets easier with practice. There will be setbacks and disappointments, as with every worthwhile endeavour, but my experience has been that rather than protecting myself at all costs, trying to be open is generally a better way to live.
    Although they doubtless exist, I believe that malicious or truly evil people are very rare, and living by the maxim “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle”, both applied to oneself and others is far from stupid or naive.

    • Nimue Brown

      I wish I could agree, but I’ve gone in hopeful and open hearted a number of times only to be told how weird, unreasonable and unacceptable I am, and had all kinds of horrible things thrown my way. I’ve trusted people, repeatedly and had that trust betrayed. I’ve become cautious because I just can’t afford what that does to me. I have to pick carefully who I am going to be vulnerable with, because for whatever reasons, some people don’t handle that well…

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