Cultivating Radical Vulnerability
In that post, I wrote:
The truth is, expressing one’s vulnerability is the epitome of strength and courage. It takes far more strength to be open and vulnerable than it does to be hard and emotionless.
Being vulnerable is absolutely the ultimate show of strength, because it requires fearlessness and being vulnerable is usually the thing we fear the most.
I’ve been cultivating that kind of vulnerability for about four years now. It began with me writing a few emails to an ex from college and being honest, for the first time, about what I was really going through, how I really felt, and the kind of impact our interactions had on me.
Funny story about that first email…I knew I had to write it. I could feel my guides pushing me to do it, if for no other reason than to be an exercise in vulnerability. So I wrote it and I held onto it. For a full week, I read it. I edited it. I read it again. I changed it again. I was buying myself time before detonating the bomb. One night, I was laying in bed once again rereading the message on my phone, just to be sure it was what I really wanted to say when my cat jumped into bed with me, got all up in my face, walked across the screen of my phone and landed her paw squarely on the send button.
First I laughed. Then I panicked. Then I laughed. Then I panicked. Then I dropped my phone on the floor and beat my face into the mattress for a solid 30 seconds (which lasts much longer than you would expect until your face is actually planted into one).
Divine intervention via furball was not how I thought I would go down.
Much to my surprise, impending doom never came. Four months went by with no response and when a message from him finally did land in my inbox on Christmas Eve, it was about four sentences in length, full of completely surface level niceties, and not a word was uttered about the email that had been sent four months earlier. And, mind you, this was the first time I’d heard from him in about three years.
That’s how the vast majority of my experiences with radical vulnerability have gone down ever since. It’s either me pitching the raw truth of myself into a black void of nothingness, or a complete and total inability to handle it and a quick shut down. Such is my experience with relationships. But with each outpouring of the real me, and with every lack of response or stalwart rejection, I’ve become less and less reliant on the approval of the other person, and more accepting of myself. Not even just accepting… I’ve started to actually LOVE the real me.
The qualities that I once thought were points of weakness or sources of shame, I slowly began to see in a different light.
I was once afraid to tell someone that I loved them for fear that they didn’t feel the same way. It felt shameful to me, somehow, to have that kind of feeling for someone who didn’t reciprocate it. And when I realized that I couldn’t make that feeling go away or shut it off, but I also couldn’t make the other person feel the same way, no matter how much of myself I gave away to try and fit whatever mold I thought they’d be more apt to accept, it left me trapped in a place of eternal suffering. For most of my life, this was the only way I had ever experienced love. It was synonymous with agony and I began to wonder if it was even possible to separate the two. Hence why my personal journal was titled, “La Douleur Exquise,” or, the exquisite pain.
The exquisite pain of wanting someone that you know you can never have, and knowing that you will still try to be with them. Has drug like effects.
Kate: So you’ll sleep with him and then you’ll hate him for sleeping with you and hate yourself for doing it?
Lauren: Yea. I’m psyched.
That just about sums it up. Codependency, in a nutshell.
For a while, I thought I was an emotional masochist. I couldn’t stop feeling what I felt and the shame of that drove me to hate myself. Or, as quoted from one of those emails I mentioned earlier, “At one point I thought, ‘This would be so much easier if I could just hate him.’ But I couldn’t. Not even remotely. So I hated me instead.”
I hated myself for not being ‘good enough’ for love. I hated myself for loving someone who didn’t love me back. I hated myself for my inability to control that emotion. And so, for the longest of times, I kept my heart locked away in a safe little metaphorical metal box where it would never have to bare the shame of being unworthy to receive the kind of love I was willing to give.
Then one day, I decided to face that fear head on. I imagined myself telling him that I loved him, and I made myself sit and imagine how it would feel to have him tell me that he didn’t love me. I nearly had a panic attack during the process, but, watching myself do this from almost a third person perspective, I kept saying to myself, “It’s ok. It’s ok. It’s ok.” In that moment, my perspective shifted and I saw love in a very different way. I was finally able to recognize that love – real, unconditional love – is not born from approval found outside of yourself. Real love is something that comes from inside of you, from a limitless source that you can’t imagine. It’s unconditional, and it’s the greatest gift that you have to give another human being, and to the world.
That kind of love is unearthed and embodied only through radical vulnerability.
People talk about oversharing as a red flag. Emotional vomit, it’s been termed. But that isn’t vulnerability. That comes from a place of need and manipulation. Real vulnerability comes from a place of self acceptance and raw authenticity.
Only as I’ve been practicing radical vulnerability in my daily life have I begun to notice just how out of touch with self the rest of the world is, and just how horrifying most people find the thought of it. Rejection hurts, certainly. All any of us really wants is to be seen, accepted, and loved regardless of who we are or were. But the more comfortable I become with who I was and who I am, the less it stings.
I’m solid with my beliefs. I enjoy my magick. And I even love how it feels and the way I express myself when I’m being vulnerable. I love that feeling. It used to terrify me. It felt like being naked in a room full of people. Now it feels amazing. Like being naked in a room full of people. 🙂 But being naked in a room full of people isn’t amazing for everyone, whether it’s you or them that’s been stripped down. And those are the people who are going to balk at how you stand tall and comfortable in your own vulnerability.
You’ll know you’ve reached that place of radical authenticity and vulnerability when they balk, and instead of giving them a middle finger up the left nostril like you used to back when you were an emotionally immature thundercunt, you respond from a place of peace, compassion, and understanding that they’re just not ready for someone like you yet, and that’s ok. Because you and your radically vulnerable self have a heart that is an endless well of love for all things, most importantly, you. And you even have enough to pass some of it on to the person who couldn’t handle the all of you, and that’s ok, too.
Why should we even care to be vulnerable in this way? Why would we not? It’s exhausting, constantly pretending to be someone else, hiding parts of yourself to make other people comfortable. Imagine all of the ridiculous manipulation and confusion you could eliminate out of your daily life if you were just HONEST about your thoughts, feelings, experiences, identity, and intentions? The efficiency freak in me loves to cut to the chase. My blunt south node revels in the idea of brute honesty. The old sage in me loves sharing experiences with a grain of wisdom. And my heart is married to the concept of just being myself.
One day, hopefully sooner rather than later, I’ll find a guy who, after seeing my most intimate and raw self, instead of balking or clamming up, will step back and say, “God damn. I want that.” He’ll be the only other naked person in the room. Until then, I’ll keep pitching love bombs into black holes, waiting to see if anything comes back from other side of the universe.
In case you are wondering, my personal journal title has since been updated to, “And Then She Flew” as of a few months ago. I decided it was time to put old ghosts to rest, and old beliefs out to pasture. Love and pain are not one and the same, and I’m no longer completely at the mercy of the latter. The former, however, she is not a cruel mistress. No, not at all. She’s a much finer muse than pain could ever hope to be.