"When we give ourselves permission to be vulnerageous, we give other people permission to be vulnerageous too" -my camp counselor, Sunbeam
(Vulnerageous as defined by Edie Weinstein: "...in our interactions, there is a need for vulnerability, which increases intimacy (described as into-me-see) and takes the ultimate sense of courageousness.")
Being emotionally vulnerageous also means feeling our feelings without disrupting, analyzing, discounting, or fixing them and then expressing ourselves from whatever place we are in at the moment. And it’s really hard, which is why we need courage. Ok, so where do we get courage? Does Whole Foods sell it in large quantities? No, we have to practice being courageous. Courage is a muscle we strengthen by gathering little courageous experiences. It's those little leaps of faith you take when you're not sure how things are going to turn out. You can start practicing with a close friend, an empathy buddy or a therapist, and little by little Vulnerageousness will become easier and easier.
But why would you ever want to walk willingly into the dark, messy, uncomfortable place that is the cave of feelings? Well for one, they'll just keep coming back. So you can either face them or put a mask over them. And the mask is not a bad thing - it’s a survival mechanism, fight/flight/freeze. When someone asks “How are you?” and you say “Good” but you really want to say “Ugh, I feel awful and I’m having the worst day of my life,” you are putting up a shield to protect yourself in some way. In those masked moments, you are trying to meet your needs. Maybe you don’t know that person or you think that person will think you are some kind of sissy. So you stuff those feelings down into our pockets, but they don’t come out in the wash. They come back.
You can also fight feelings. Your co-worker asks if you are disappointed about not being given that promotion at work and you angrily scoff at her and say “No way. You’re so nosy. Why don’t you mind your own business.” What you really want to do is cry and lay your head down on a friend’s lap and tell her that you are really worried about being able to pay your bills and feed your children. And responding with anger is meeting needs, too. After all, disappointment and worry are not comfortable feelings. And maybe you don’t completely trust your co-worker either.
But the ultimate outcomes of Vulnerageousness are ease, connection, and healing. When you feel your feelings, your pain is healed and you rack up those little courage experiences like points in the game of life. Inner conflict decreases and becomes easier to spot when it’s happening. When you express from a vulnerageous place, you let others see your truth. You let others see your humanity, and that is how we connect to one another.
Note: Kat makes no claim that any of this is The Truth for anyone else. She writes to keep up her practice of NVC skills, which are always evolving, and to share her learning with others. This post may change at a later date.