Our culture teaches us that people who are vulnerable are weak. We are taught to be ‘masculine’ and to ‘grow up’. We are taught not to show our softer side to anybody else for fear of it being exploited. These are wrong notions and do more harm than good.
Human beings are ‘feeling beings’. And all of us are born sensitive, vulnerable, soft and kind. We assume that are we grow up we need to discard this part of us, almost as a right of passage into adulthood. It is true that as we mature we must begin to better regulate our behaviors and our emotional reactions. However, many of us choose to build walls – to prevent ourselves from feeling – to prevent ourselves from the pain of other letting us down. Over time, this becomes a habit, especially if we are born into a family that does not encourage expressing emotions, especially weakness, sadness and love.
Take a moment to examine if you are uncomfortable expressing feelings of sadness or of love to the closest people around you. Does it make you squirm in yourself? If yes, you probably have a problem in expressing these tender feelings. This indicates that you have walled yourself from facing these so called difficult emotions. The wall appears to give us strength. To our friends and family we appear to be solid and tough and have the ability to ride out all emotions. But this isn’t true. These of us, have a darker side to our personality which we adeptly hide from everyone. Generally these repressed feelings come out as frustration, anger, irritability, sadness and a perpetual tiredness. In a more grosser form this manifests itself as inability to pay attention, to be very superfluous in conversations and a tendency to escape from emotionally difficult situations in life.
Over time, this dark side builds up like a volcano. Breakdowns and a lack of energy and motivation are indicators that we are repressing our feelings. Slowly, we atrophy the connection to ourselves – the source of enthusiasm, joy and vibrancy in life. The loss of this, makes life mechanical and drab. We go through life with an attitude of drudgery and tiredness. We may even become cynical and critical of the world. These manifestations can only be attributed to ourselves – our walls – our inability to face our emotions.
The other path is the path of vulnerability. What does vulnerability mean? It means to be completely honest and naked to yourself – on how you feel – on what pains you. Vulnerability does not mean sentimentality. It doesn’t mean that we cry and express our feelings to anyone and everyone we meet. No. Vulnerability means that we are open to ourselves. We allow and accept our feelings and do not try to rationalize them away. We are so programmed not to ‘feel weak’, that the minute an emotion wells up in us, we want to shove it away – by rationalizing it, by avoiding it through distractions or by simply refusing to recognize it. All these paths, as we have seen, only makes us less human – they make us less sensitive to life and ourselves.
On the path of self discovery, a critical component is recognition of our feelings. This means we need to begin by facing uncomfortable feelings. Take time off from work. Do not use busyness as a proxy to facing your feelings. Understand your walls and be courageous enough to examine what is behind them. This makes us grow as human beings. This is the true strength. And when we can face our own feelings, we are so totally open that we can begin to relate to others feelings. This becomes the basis of empathy and kindness. This is the basis for true intimacy in relationships.
Therefore, take the first step and look behind your walls. While it may be tough in the beginning, it would be worth the journey.