I hesitated about adding the word vulnerability to this article because I had a concern it may turn potential readers away. My reasoning being, ironically, there are many of us who are afraid to be vulnerable, therefore, afraid to be afraid.
I think many of us have realised as we continue to experience one pandemic, several different forms of lockdown and almost 2 years of talking about almost nothing else but a virus, that uncertainty is actually ever present.
Despite that, because we crave certainty and safety, once things “settle down” many of us will tell ourselves the lie that there is reliability, certainty and stability around us again. It may be true that there will be more stability and a more reliable environment. I would challenge, however, that life is ever more or less uncertain. It is an uncertain world and we need to adjust ourselves to that.
This is why we started the Uncertainty Principle series of seminars this year. These are simply free seminars on the personal issues that uncertainty brings up for us. Each one delivers quality, proven strategies and tactics that we can use, should we choose to, that will help us navigate an uncertain world.
There’s that word again. In short our feelings of vulnerability are our core feelings of fear, sadness, shame and hurt. We often use a fifth feeling to mask them…anger. None of these feelings are comfortable, which is why we try to avoid feeling them and potentially store up trouble for the future.
These feelings, along with happiness, are the ways we have evolved to describe our experiences of life. They have evolved for sound reasons such as to warn us (fear) or to help us process loss (sadness) for example. The challenge we have is that we have also, more recently, developed anxieties (there’s the irony again) about feeling this way and thus we hide, deny and suppress them.
This is where we store up trouble for the future. These evolved feelings are meant to be with us for as long as they are needed. A particularly deep loss for example may require many periods of sadness to process it. By pushing these feelings away and pretending we don’t feel them we do not get rid of them. We just defer the process of dealing with them and the more we push them away the stronger their need to be with us is. Which is why, those of us that have spent a lifetime pushing away our vulnerability, when we finally somehow give in to it, can instantly feel overwhelmed. It’s as if our psyche is saying “see I told you we should not let these vulnerable feelings in!”
What’s the alternative?
Leaning in. Learning to live with them. Better still welcoming them into our world. Denying ourselves denial and admitting that we feel this way. It is uncomfortable but it is part of being human.
In other words living with the reality that is uncertainty.
Leaning into uncertainty can mean living in the moment, living moment to moment and living life from a place of acceptance. Acceptance that we have these feelings and they do not make us lesser or better for experiencing them.
Leaning away from uncertainty can mean living in fear, anxiety and continually trying to control our environment in order to falsely feel safer. It can also mean experiencing less because to be safe means to restrict our experiences. It can mean we create false ideas about safety that, when they are disproved by events, feel disproportionately traumatic because we were not used to dealing with them via continual exposure.
The world is uncertain. It always has been. We do experience vulnerability and we always have.
Our feelings of vulnerability describe our experience; they don’t define us.
If you would like to know more about our Uncertainty Principle series of talks email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the contact form on our website to join our mailing list.
Coincidentally, the next one is titled Dealing With Feeling and you can join it here.