~Elisha Godstein / Mindfulness & Psychotherapy
Perhaps the 13th Sufi poet Rumi said it best, “Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters.” The entrance into all that’s beautiful in life is in what’s vulnerable. When something or someone is vulnerable before us we feel connected and connection is at the essence of feel well. This is because ultimately all things and people in life are connected and to feel connection is a feeling of belonging, it’s a feeling of being home. But to feel vulnerable we have to be brave and in this lies the freedom we long for.
The problem is our brains and our culture equates vulnerability with weakness. One of my newest favorite researchers and authors Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage, truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.” For many of us to be vulnerable, we must be brave. Why? Because when our ancestors were back in the savannah hunting and foraging they couldn’t afford to be vulnerable, to be vulnerable meant risking your life. That fear-based mentality has been recorded over thousands of generations and past on in our DNA. Eventually it is programmed into the most primitive regions of our brain.
The tough thing is not only are you and I born with this erroneous programming, but it’s encouraged through our culture. If our parents, friends, religious institutions and media send us the message that to be vulnerable means to be weak, then we believe it. Just like when we grow up and people tell us blue is blue, eventually we never question it, it’s blue.
What do we need to do? We need to take our most evolved area of the brain, the prefrontal cortex that lies just behind the forehead and use it to correct the transgenerational encoding that says that vulnerability is bad. To do this we need to notice and be mindful of the vulnerability that’s there and engage a radical act of courage. We need to be brave. This is the epitome of self-compassion.
When I first wrote The Now Effect I revealed the most vulnerable story of my life. Something I had felt shame about for years and always choked me up whenever I’d talk to anyone about it. It was a story of a deeply tumultuous night after being lost in a binge of drugs and alcohol where I found myself in a place that I never thought I’d be. This was a memory I’d rather have buried for years, but it turned out that it was also the source of my transformation.
After writing that story I felt a sense of self-compassion and freedom that I had never felt before. I released the shame of it and after The Now Effect was published countless emails came into me expressing a similar story or for many they were in the midst of that story right now. In having the courage to write that story not only did I release the shame and the feeling of being so alone with it, but the ripple effects inspired others to begin releasing their shame too.
Remember this, Freedom rests in the heart of vulnerability.