And something about resilience
Before I begin,
Thanks for reading. If you find Life Intelligence useful, please share it with others. Thank you for making the world more Life Intelligent! Who knows? It may help!
If you are new here, please subscribe. I promise to make it worth your time. I usually publish on Wednesdays, or not on Wednesdays, but always once per week.
After Brene Brown’s TED talk in 2011 on The Power of Vulnerability, the world (or at least the US) immediately latched on to a new kind of aspiration – to be vulnerable. An army of proponents followed, espousing its virtues and benefits, from therapists’ couches to coffee shops, invited or uninvited. If you’ve been reading Life Intelligence long enough, you know what’s coming – my beef with vulnerability. No, not the actual willingness to expose oneself to possible physical or emotional attack or harm (the definition of vulnerability). More like what’s become a “practice” of demanding attention, self-entitlement, and a manipulation strategy. If you play bridge, you know vulnerability as a strategy – liable to increase penalties but entitled to increase bonuses after winning a game. And you play to win… So, naturally vulnerability, right!
I don’t deny the necessity for some people to open up, trust others, and learn to ask for what they need. I’ve had to learn those things. I was a notoriously independent person who didn’t need anyone. That is, until I got tired of banging my head against the wall. Then I wised up. Perhaps on account of pulverizing my head on multiple occasions, I softened up. I learned to talk about my feelings and ask for what I needed in the end. But I also learned a balance between self-reliance and needing others. I also learned the difference between healthy, necessary, and cohesive actions in life and relationships and what’s selfish, unhealthy, attention-seeking behavior that leads to drama and unnecessary struggle. I even trust a few people now! LOL.
That’s as much vulnerability you will get from me right now and only because I needed an example. As you can see, I am exposing personal things about myself but not looking for sympathy or complaining. I am also not asking for anything. I am just being honest about a difficult maturation process, which I can summarize relatively lighthearted in a couple of sentences. I feel confident that although some people may disagree with me or dislike it, the potential for physical or emotional harm to me is pretty minimal. I may have to “dislike” a few comments, but overall, even if someone decides to bash me, I can confidently go about my business not taking it personally.
Sadly, what “vulnerability for mass consumption” looks like these days often closely resembles the manipulation of others for personal gain. Whining and complaining with an accusatory tone and a hint of entitlement does not count for vulnerability.
If someone approaches you with “I am going to be vulnerable with you,” they likely want your attention with an agenda. They want some action from you, AND they want to obligate you before they even start. What comes next is likely a list of things you are doing wrong to make them feel whatever they feel. You are to blame. Therefore, you must correct your behavior to alleviate their distress. You must deliver more security, direction, affection, help, love, respect, and whatever else they lay claim to.
A person who honestly wants to tell you something deeply personal will share what’s on their mind and what they are ready to share. They are likely clumsy in the process, thoughtful, and exploratory. They likely don’t have a list of demands and accusations. As a result, you end up with a meandering and meaningful conversation. They don’t come across as victimized. Instead, you feel a natural connection because of the trust they just bestowed upon you.
It takes courage to be honest with yourself. It takes courage to be honest with others. Corrupting the concept of vulnerability diminishes its powerful usefulness. Instead of finding deeper connections and healing, we become more confused and cautious.
If you are a person with a penchant for “vulnerability,” consider for a moment who are “the vulnerable.” Usually, we use the designation for people powerless in some sense – the elderly, disabled, children, and the Ukrainians for the last 47 days and counting. These are people disempowered by circumstances and chances and not usually due to a fault of their own. At the very least, before you call upon vulnerability to benefit your interests, consider your situation. How are you disempowered? How much of what your experience is within your control, of your own doing or undoing? If you want to be truly vulnerable, demand honesty of yourself and your motivations BEFORE you bring the conversation to the table.
Hiding your ulterior motives behind vulnerability claims does not absolve you of responsibility for your actions and outcomes, and eventually pisses people off.
That’s all I have to say about that.
I possibly repeat myself by saying that the last 2.5 years feel like a heavy concentration of shit hitting the fan. From the pandemic, through elections, to more pandemic, to now the war in Ukraine, which destabilizes the whole world. If you feel like you got sucked up into a tornado and are unsure where you’ll get dumped and in what condition, you are not alone. The stress is intense, and people are losing it. If you don’t want resilience, consider these two ways in which I keep my head on my shoulders and above water.
Lean on friends and family, people you can trust, and you can vent to. Having a vent-fest about things out of your control with like-minded individuals discharges the tension. We are stronger with others. Plus, we can help each other.
Find productive ways to exercise control in your life. Notice the word “productive.” It does not include being a demanding prick to the people who serve you. It includes things like learning something new, building/creating something, taking care of your health, volunteering or helping others, taking care of your finances, and training your dog… You get the point. You need something within your control to measure and monitor your progress and feel good about your hard work and outcomes. It grounds you in the moment. It gives you something positive to look forward to. It gives you purpose for the time being.
If you have other tricks up your sleeve, share in the comments for the benefit of others.
Thanks for reading.