Vulnerability engenders shame. No matter how many messages we get that we need to honor our emotions as authentic expressions of our unique selves, we try to avoid them. We have techniques and coping mechanisms. We have no patience for the normal human smorgasbord of feelings. There is a logic to the human mind. It does things for a reason, but we are impatient. We don’t want to know why we feel bad. We just want to stop feeling bad.
There is a certain failure in emotional distress. We look around ourselves and see people succeeding, with seemingly stable emotions and productive lives. If we are not managing our inner life, it feels like we are not trying hard enough, not smart enough to figure out how to do it ourselves, not good enough to deserve to be repaired. As grown ups, and even as children, we know we are responsible for ourselves. If we are unhappy, then, it is our responsibility.
There is something so close, so personal, and so shameful about our inner distress that it is difficult to expose it to another person. Difficult to look for “help” with it. The whole idea of help makes us feel like children. Inept, clumsy, incompetent, defective. Sometimes it is just at our most vulnerable, feeling the least competent, with the deepest shame that we acknowledge defeat and turn to another person for support, knowledge, and relationship. It doesn’t feel like a good thing. It doesn’t feel like a relief. It feels like a failure. Like we have failed to manage ourselves and our lives.
Maybe some part of the healing is accepting and dissolving this sense of shame about the human condition. And the rage at our own unique vulnerabilities and distress. Embracing our lives with both arms, not initially to change it, but to own it. To get the reflections from another person that signify, yes, this is me. Messy, flawed…a work in progress. The reflections that allow me to come to know myself deeply without the need to avoid, squash, manipulate or otherwise brutalize the parts of myself that I am afraid of. And with whom could I feel safe enough to do this? Who would want to exercise the patience to come to know me that well? Who would be curious and tolerant and intelligent enough to understand? And then what would happen?