Some time ago it was suggested to me that I have a conversation with my anger – well, with the fictional manifestation of it, anyway. I needed to be in touch with the anger at all that happened to me and the broken, abusive man who caused me such damage. I needed to stop fearing my anger. I asked myself: if my anger is a dragon – an anger that has kept me safe, and will continue to teach me where safety lies, if I let it – what would I say to it? What would it say to me? How would the conversation go? It was an interesting exercise, and a helpful one which I actually blogged about – I’m no longer afraid of my anger, and while I’m not quite willing to embrace it just yet, I am willing to give it more of a space in my being. Just a little bit.
This week, it was the turn of vulnerability. It’s something I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about and I fell to wondering: if my anger can be manifested as an acerbic, slightly grumpy dragon with an axe to grind and my best interests at heart, then how about vulnerability?
And I have decided the following:
1. If the fictional manifestation of my anger is a dragon, then the fictional manifestation of my vulnerability is a sweet little creature of whom I shouldn’t be ashamed.
2. For a very long time, my vulnerability has been hidden away where no one can get at it. This was helpful when I was physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually unsafe. It is no longer helpful.
3. I need to start to acknowledge my vulnerability. I am very good at talking about that – to counsellors, to my spiritual director, even on this blog – but I’m actually quite atrocious at doing it in real life.
4. All of the things I feel in that small, hurt, vulnerable place are ok. I’ve been hurt in just about every way possible. I’ve been physically and emotionally violated and betrayed in ways I couldn’t even have begun to imagine before I found myself surviving it. This happened not just once but literally more times than I can remember. And whenever I stop, whenever my mind empties itself of words and thoughts and analysis and busyness, I feel like shit about it. If it was anyone else, I’d say that they were absolutely entitled to feel like shit. Since it’s me, though, I feel ashamed, and try to pretend that the depth of emotion simply doesn’t exist. And so that vulnerability is forced down further, and further, and further, and I become more and more frightened of how much it will hurt when I finally acknowledge it.
5. I’m not fooling anyone – anyone who knows me, that is – including myself. I’m blessed to be surrounded by friends who know when I’m not ok, who are gracious enough to ask and brave enough to risk hearing the answer, and kind enough to let me get away with telling them that I’m fine. But we all know that there are times when I’m lying.
6. The vulnerability is not going anywhere and neither is the emotion. If my friends are gracious enough and brave enough to ask the question, surely I can be brave and gracious enough to give them the answer.
Don’t know. We’ll see. All I know is, squashing it all down isn’t working. And if it ain’t working, that probably means it’s time to try something different.