Vulnerability

The Vulnerability Project

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When I started the vulnerability project, I assumed that because I was in control of the situations of vulnerability, that I’d always leave feeling positive about those experiences.

I’ve discovered this just isn’t the case.

The Vulnerability Project is hard.

Vulnerability is hard.

 

Part of me is extremely thankful that those around me can’t relate with trauma.  What kind of person would I be if I wished those around me to have that experience in order to have them be able to be on trauma island with me?

Recently I went to another Authentic Relating event where I shared that I have PTSD.  This is a vulnerable this for me to share with relatively new people, and I didn’t feel seen or understood. Not only that, but focus quickly shifted from me to someone else.  This is a frequent occurrence when people are uncomfortable, and when those around me are unable to relate to my experience.

Recently, my mother was vulnerable with me, sharing her feelings about her parents quickly descending into dementia.  In exchange, I was vulnerable with her I shared that I just wanted to check out of life, and she said “some people just can’t cope with trauma” and compared my experience by proxy with a breakdown my cousin had.  This felt really discounting and dismissive of my experience.

I half-joked with my therapist that I just wanted to have a cot in her office and move in.  There needs to be a primer written about trauma.  Trauma language, how to relate with those who have experienced trauma.  How to be value and share space with people who are sharing their experiences and being vulnerable.

Maybe THIS is what I need to write.

 

 

 

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The Greatest Thing…

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“The greatest thing is just to love,

AND be loved in return.”

 

 

My grief cycle moved very nicely from anger to sadness throughout the day, which I credited to really FEELING my emotions, which I hadn’t really done before with strong “negative” emotions, for lack of better terms.

Last night I attended another Authentic Relating circle.  I was particularly nervous because a friend was also attending.  This made me feel vulnerable for a couple of reasons.  First, they knew me outside of the circle, and that I had been struggling.  Second I was concerned that I would no longer be able to be an on-looker at the circle, and need to participate more.  Both concerns were forcing me to look at my emotions and focus on being present in the space which I ended up being very grateful for.

I also was grateful that I was asked a pointed question about how I was feeling, which forced me to be out in the open and vulnerable.  After the past few days, I was feeling raw, and was craving the opportunity to speak about my experience and yet still feeling really trepidatious about opening up to a group of nine people I barely knew about the hurt I was feeling.  But as soon as I started talking I started to feel a release of some of the sadness I was carrying.

I started to hear the stories of the other’s in the room and one line struck me about being a giver, and pouring a lot of love and time into relationships and feeling like you’re not getting much back.  When I heard that line it hit me so hard, like someone threw truth at me like a brick.  All I wanted to do was to reach out touch the person who said this, but they were across the room.  It was an almost overwhelming desire to connect and go, I hear you, this is exactly it.  The givers give, but often we are not given TO.

Yes. yes. YES. You are not alone, I hear you.

One of the reasons I surround myself with such amazing people is TO LOVE.

 

I’ve realized that equally important is to be loved IN RETURN.  

 

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Vicarious Vulnerabilty Victim

This week I attended another Authentic Relating Event, Circling, this one much smaller than the first with only 8 people in the room.  While the setting was different, the content was focused on authentic relating.

My main worry was having nowhere to “hide” with the smaller crew.  I felt… vulnerable. (So I suppose I was right on track.)  Tuesday was a day full of anxiety, and this event was mere hours after.  I thought of canceling, but I had already paid and had bailed from this event two weeks prior.

Admittedly, I enjoyed this intimate setting much more as I was able to settle in and learn more about each member of the group rather than mingling with 20 others.  I was quite nervous to attend this particular “circling” event, however, due to an ominous review from a person from the previous larger event.

Circling is formatted around two “circles;” conversation sessions that happened among the eight of us over 45 minutes with a break in between.  The first circle was dubbed a “birthday circle.”  Birthday circles are focused on one person, where the conversation organically moves around this person topically.  Due to confidentiality, I will not mention what we talked about specifically.  However, broadly, the topics involved how this person reacted to insight given by the others in the group and past experiences.

Though this circle was directed and focused on this one individual, I noticed that I was internalizing a lot of interesting facts about myself.  How would I react to certain situations that were brought up?  How would I feel if I were asked this question?  How would I react if I were asked this question in that particular way or tone?

When this truth bomb was so casually thrown out in the middle of the circle…

“Self-care can disguise itself as isolation.”

I mean, holy shit.  Prepare me next time, Y’all.  I don’t know about you, but I can count on 1845493 hands how many times my self-care has looked like just me retreating into my soul in an unhealthy “omg just leave me alone I’m dying here but save me but leave me alone but help me” way.  However, I label the retreat as “self-care.”  Dude, get over yourself.  Sometimes needing to be alone is self-care.  Totally.  But if you are unplugging from the people you tell when you are having a hard time… if you are running away (especially if you are running away from yourself), first off, good luck.  Second off, let someone know that you are struggling and let them know that you are going to wade around in the shit for a day.  Then do it.  Go ahead.  But then plug back in.

Self-care can disguise itself as isolation.” 

Okay, back to the night. More broadly, once I got comfortable with the questions being asked, I started to probe my ideas about the askers themselves.  What about their experiences brought them to this space, and why did they think what they did?

All this thinking, of course, led me to be quite quiet during this circle. I asked a couple of questions to appear engaged (though I was DEEPLY engaged internally), and then we went to break. During break, it became apparent that several of the people in attendance were friends, and they started to speak with each other.  I noticed that I started to feel left out.  I tried to engage by eye contact with the story and laughing when there was something funny, but there was still a level of disconnect.

We started the second circle which was an “organic circle,” which was waiting to see what would come up.  One person talked a bit about drifting and spoke a bit about feeling disconnected from the group then hesitated to speak further because the topic would be dark.  This was REALLY interesting to me because the first circle was so light and I resonated with the disconnect.  Again, I won’t go details about the topic due to confidentiality.

We closed the circles and two of the people turned to me and said they wished that they had heard me talk more, and they wanted to get to know me better.  My immediate response was that I wish I had talked more as well.  It was an odd thing to come out of my mouth as I didn’t really even think about it.  I had just spent so much time listening to people be so brave with their thoughts and feelings that I just felt I was holding space to hear them.

I drove home feeling very warm and lovely.

 

When I walked in the door I sat next to my husband and told him about the event and I sensed a weird vibe.  As I talked more about the events, I felt a heavier and heavier cloud settling.  I had just spent 3 hours being in tune with people’s emotions, and I knew there was something wrong.

“Are you okay with me going to these events?” I asked (sensing there was something much deeper.)

“Yes.  I just don’t get why you go to them and share thoughts and feelings there.  I mean you have family and me for that.”  He replied.

I had an immediate thought that I couldn’t hold back, “Are you jealous?”

“No!”  He was so quick to reply that there felt like there was some truth there.

“Okay.  Tell me more about what you are feeling then, because I don’t understand, and it seems like you have some concerns.  Is it because there are guys at these events and I share these experiences with them too?” (Knowing that cheating is never ever a concern on either of our minds, I wanted to give him a starting point to work from.)

“Not at all. I guess where I come from is that the feelings and thoughts you mention are things that I generally share with you or my family.  I just don’t understand why you feel the need to seek these experiences outside of us for…”

And he paused.  And cried.

So I waited and thought. And got it.

“So what I’m hearing is that since your emotional needs are met by me and family, the only reason you’d do something like this is if those needs WEREN’T being met.  So, since I am doing this, you’re concerned that YOU aren’t meeting my needs as my life partner?”

“BINGO.” And he took a deep breath of understanding.

 

So then we hashed out how lovely our relationship is, and that the reason I do things like this is to be brave.  And I can be brave because I feel so secure in our relationship.

I married up, Y’all.

 

 

 

 

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Limbal Ring of Insight

 

“Of all the qualities that give an attractive person an edge, here’s one you’ve likely overlooked:  the limbal ring,  the dark circle around iris.  The limbal ring is the line that separates the colored part of the eye from the white…. 

The limbal ring is well-named. Limbis means border or edge, and it’s related to limbic, meaning emotion or drives. The limbal ring, seen from inches away, is an intimacy zone.”

~ Pyschology Today~

Last night I attended a game night hosted by Authentic Relating  (A.R.) in a neighboring city. Authentic relating meet-ups are based on the idea of deepening interpersonal connections and really pushing aside the fluff and getting to the meat of the authenticity of each other in conversation and interpersonal relationships from the get-go. From their page, their goals state that their activities are created to: “Highlight and train body awareness, Create deep connection, Boost empathy, Strengthen community, Be fun!”

For someone who survived trauma and has anxiety going to this event was a BIG leap.  I had already bailed on this event once two weeks prior, and I was committed to attending this time around.  I was challenged already as it was in a new place, with new people, at night.  The topic was “self-love,” another topic that can be hard for us women/mothers, as putting our needs and self-compassion in the forefront can be challenging.

As someone with PTSD does, I got there early and parked where I could see other people enter to make sure I got to the right place.  Then when I was convinced that I COULD, in fact, do ANYTHING for 2 hours, I walked in.  This event was held in a lovely space, and the people were friendly.  I sat down on a comfortable pillow in a giant circle and waited for the event to begin.

Marina Abramović’s performance at MoMA in 2010 emphasizes the power of eye contact. Marina Abramović is a Serbian performance artist who has various performances that push her body to extremes to experience pain, nudity, violence, and vulnerability. In her performance The Artist is Present, which took place in MoMA in 2010, Marina sits on a chair as the spectators come one by one to sit in front of Marina to look at her eyes for a whole minute. The moment they look at each others’ eyes and communicate without any words is so deep that the vulnerability of eye contact becomes the power of communication. In just one minute.

During my two hours with the other twenty authentic relaters, we went through several activities meant to help us gently grow, and find our edges.  They didn’t waste any time diving right in, starting with the very activity Marina Abramovic did at MoMA.  We were to find a partner, hold hands and simply hold eye contact with each other silently until we found that we had really connected, then move on to the next person.  Thankfully, I had chatted with someone who sat next to me when I arrived, to the two of us partnered up.

My partner had been to previous A.R. events, so this particular activity seemed within her comfort zone, where the immediate and sustained eye contact with a stranger immediately hit up against my edge.

Knowing this was the idea of the activity, I went inside those feelings and started to explore them while maintaining eye contact with my partner.  She had a kind face and an accepting expression.  Knowing I was new, I sensed she knew this was challenging for me.  Mere seconds in, my heart began to race, my shoulders tensed, my breath was unsteady, and it hit me… how little I sustain eye contact with people when I am expressing feelings.

In this one minute, I managed to have a full soul search and had the serious realization of a need to be more bold with those I talk with, and to connect with them more when I am speaking my truth.  I have no problem connecting with others with full eye contact when they are speaking about THEIRS, but I shy away when I am speaking about mine.

Tomorrow night is the gathering of my delightful tribe of twelve ladies who gather once a month at my home to fellowship and simply be among women.  I will be exercizing these new skills if the opportunity comes up!