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What does it mean to be vulnerable?

Being Vulnerable in Recovery

If you come to treatment or you are coming to recovery, one word you will definitely hear is vulnerability. The importance of being vulnerable in the therapeutic relationship–particularly in treatment–is something you might hear from a spouse as well. 

 

On the one hand, I think it is a word a lot of people have heard–definitely in California. On the other hand, it is a word that is often misunderstood. I think the way people automatically take the idea of being more vulnerable is allowing people to see and feel a certain domain of my emotional life, allowing people to see my sensitivity, allowing people to see my compassion, allowing people to see my sadness. It is what we think about when we hear the word vulnerability.

 

What is Vulnerability?

One definition I like that a friend of mine–Mordecai Finley–uses is: vulnerability actually is not about letting people see your softer emotions, it is allowing yourself to affect and be affected by other people. 

 

Vulnerability is on some level a certain amount of emotional openness that is not appropriate for every area of your life. For instance, when I am walking into Wells Fargo going cash a check, there is just no need for me to be vulnerable. 

 

Why is it Important to be Vulnerable?

 

In my home life with my wife, with my children, in a therapeutic process, in a transformational process, in an intimate moment with a friend or lover–in those moments being able to allow what is going on with that person to affect me. Often we will call that empathy, and also knowing that I am affecting another person.

 

That interpersonal exchange, that is the essence of what vulnerability is about. I think it is important–not just for a recovery process–but I do not think you can have a healthy life or healthy meaningful relationships without vulnerability. 

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