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Strength Through Emotional Vulnerability

One of the most frequent challenges I see many of my clients facing is whether or not to be emotionally vulnerable. Some people are somewhat comfortable with it, and some are not depending upon past experiences and how they coped and dealt with the subsequent wounds. It’s common for people to have negative and painful relationship experiences when younger and attempt to protect and guard their well-being by avoiding emotional vulnerability.

In some cases, guarding and protecting yourself from emotional vulnerability is wise. For example, if you have a parent, family member, co-worker or acquaintance with a history and pattern of being hurtful to you, I definitely suggest protecting yourself by not being vulnerable emotionally. Or if you don’t know someone well or see some potential “red flags” from someone’s behavior, I think it’s also wise to take a wait and see approach. But, in most cases, people close up emotionally with others who haven’t presented any red flags of warnings or concern and who they care about.

How Can Emotional Vulnerability Help Me or My Relationships?

Emotional vulnerability helps promote intimacy and understanding in relationships.

By choosing to guard one’s self and stand behind emotional withdrawal or avoidance in a relationship, a chasm of distance is created. Only through the expression of true feelings, fears, Vulnerabilityneeds and insecurities can the truth about someone be known. This disclosure promotes understanding between two people and then creates an opportunity for the other person to accept the one being vulnerable. As I often jokingly say with clients, “the fleas come with the dog and don’t’ be afraid to show yours’”. By taking the chance to be emotionally vulnerable, you invest in your relationship and open up the opportunity for a deeper understanding and intimacy. By continuing to hide the parts of one’s self out of fear, the relationship hits a plateau in many respects. Even though scary and uncomfortable, vulnerability paves the way for a better relationship with self and others.

Emotional vulnerability helps decrease anxiety.

When someone is emotionally guarded and avoids vulnerability with those they care about, anxiety is almost always increased. I often say anxiety can be measured by the distance between who a person truly is and the portrayal of self to others. The greater the distance there is between one’s true self and the image reflected, the greater the anxiety. If someone is holding back their expression of fears, thoughts, insecurities, and needs they will most likely have anxiety because they are hyper vigilant about other people not “seeing over the wall” they have created. They worry they will be “found out and judged” and ultimately, disliked and not loved. This is a lot of worry to carry around!

Emotional vulnerability creates opportunity for self-acceptance, acceptance by others and helps to heal wounds of insecurities.

A great shift can occur when a person pushes through the fear of exposure, becomes emotionally vulnerable and is accepted for who they are. There is no longer that “thing” to defend, hide, or monitor and a tremendous freedom comes from the acceptance by others. This acceptance, in turn, helps to heal the wounds of insecurity because the part of the person that was privately judged is now challenged. many people walk around with inaccurate beliefs thinking their feelings, needs and wounds make them a weak and unlikable person.  Because a person sometimes is scared to be vulnerable, he or she feels weak and then believes they are weak.  Or they may have been told that vulnerability is weakness by others in their life at some point.  All wounds have their origin in relationship, and the irony is that healing takes place in a healthy relationship by exposing the very wounds which an unhealthy relationship helped create. By avoiding vulnerability out of fear, a person rejects and judges him/herself in order to prevent rejection or judgment. By being afraid of another, you’re in essence afraid of yourself and what you already feel about yourself. It’s the fear that someone else will validate the negativity we already feel about ourselves. By choosing to believe someone will accept us, we take a huge step in accepting ourselves.

Sylvia Flanagan, MFT is a San Diego therapist with a private practice in Mission Valley. For more information about San Diego Counseling, feel free to call or email her.  Office hours are Monday through Thursday 9:00 to 6:00.

Sylvia Flanagan, MFT is a San Diego therapist with a private practice in Mission Valley.  For more information about San Diego Counseling, feel free to call or email her.
Office hours are Monday through Thursday 9:00 to 6:00. – See more at: http://sandiego-therapist.com/2013/06/ive-been-cheated-on-what-now/#sthash.372PWLvd.dpuf
Sylvia Flanagan, MFT is a San Diego therapist with a private practice in Mission Valley.  For more information about San Diego Counseling, feel free to call or email her.
Office hours are Monday through Thursday 9:00 to 6:00. – See more at: http://sandiego-therapist.com/2013/06/ive-been-cheated-on-what-now/#sthash.372PWLvd.dpuf