Blog: Ask Isa: Vulnerability

Blog: Ask Isa: Vulnerability

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

Question: You have said that there is power in the vulnerability inherent in major life transitions but I have a hard time understanding how that is possible. Would you explain this more?

Isa: I think most of us do not understand the true nature of vulnerability. Many of us think avoiding vulnerability is the right course of action, and we feel justified in doing whatever we need to do to keep ourselves from feeling vulnerable. Naturally, there are situations where we should take any action necessary to keep ourselves from being hurt – such as when we are actually physically attacked. However, most of the time we are engaged in social interactions where our definitions of vulnerability are less dramatic than in situations where our physical safety is at stake.

In such interactions, being vulnerable often involves feeling defenseless against actions others might take toward us. Those actions might involve another person determining whether or not we get a job we want or whether we get to go out on a date with the person we are attracted to. We fear others will keep us from having what we want. Then, when we start feeling vulnerable, we defend against anything that might keep us from getting what we want or keeping what we want. Under these conditions, vulnerability becomes defined as the uncertainty of being able to have or achieve what we want.

When this happens, we begin to fear one kind of change and to crave another kind of change. We don’t want change to happen when it might mean being out of control. We want change to happen only when it increases the likelihood of getting what we want. There’s a persistent fear of any change that would prevent us from having what we want, because some change is still required to have more of what we want. It is in the moment of change that we feel most vulnerable and afraid.

This fear is unfortunate, because it is precisely in the moment of change when we are most vulnerable that we are also the most powerful. When the old structures that have created our definitions of who we are in relation to others dissolve, we have the power to create new ones. This is actually exciting. But most of us are terrorized by the idea that some aspect of our hard-won definitions of what we want might disappear. This is because we spend so much time trying to make ourselves feel secure through defining ourselves by what we want and how effective we are at getting it.

If we could allow the process of change, and feel the possibilities of defining ourselves in new ways, we could rest in the moment where we feel most terrified: the moment of potential. The moment of potential is filled with power. If we can learn what we need to change within ourselves – which usually means creating a dramatic shift in the way we direct our will – we can embrace the power of vulnerability.

Once we stop trying to make ourselves more solid by getting everything we want, we start seeing the moment of change and the vulnerability it brings as an opportunity. Change is no longer something to fear. Vulnerability is no longer something to fear. By embracing the vulnerability in change, we direct the power of potential in our own experience. As we do this, we become more courageous and better able to participate fully in the dance of change the universe presents in every moment.