Type: Definition Essays
Sample donated: Leticia Lyons
Last updated: February 21, 2019
1. IntroductionWe all experienced mentalvulnerability at some point in our life; in fact, it is a state of emotionwhich is attached to every human being on earth. According to Brown (2010, p.33), vulnerability is defined as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.
” Wefeel vulnerable when we have been hurt by our loved ones, when we mutter theword “I love you” without knowing if it would be returned, or when we are madefun of in front of everyone. Naturally, whenever we experience these feelings,we incline to close them out and find distractions, we are terrified of being vulnerable,and we all long for joy and happiness. However, it has recently come intorealization that vulnerability is actually the essential key in the search forbelonging and happiness, that embracing these feelings is how we can actuallyhave the chance of achieving worthiness and deep connection with others (Brown,2010). This research paper is aimed to provide the specific definition ofemotional vulnerability, the common knowledge and reaction towardsvulnerability, its role in achieving a sense of happiness and connection, andhow we can use vulnerability to reach wholehearted living.
2. Discussion of findings2.1. The definition of vulnerabilityThe definition of emotionalvulnerability is closely linked with the feelings we have whenever we face asituation where we are uncertain, at risk, or exposed to negative emotions(Brown, 2010). According to her definition, vulnerability is innate in everyhuman being. It is a state which we often connect to our dark emotions likefear, shame, disappointment, grief, and sadness. On this, Steven Stosny (2013)also said that vulnerability is an emotional state which in experience, youdevelop the strongest defense. He claimed that shame and fear are a person’score vulnerability.
However, vulnerability not only associates with those dark states,but also with situations where we have to take risks and accept the uncertainties.Investing in a relationship that may or may not work out, waiting through hoursin the hospital for your medical results, setting up a business, tellingsomebody your secret, facing a failure… they are all moments and circumstancesshowing your vulnerability. Agreeing with Brown, Nathan Chai(2016) defined being vulnerable as “allowing yourself to show others sides ofyourself that may go against who you believe yourself to be.”, that is, to showothers the parts you thought are your weaknesses that makes you doubt yourworthiness of connection and success.
For example, we believe we are totally incontrol of our feelings, but the truth is we need to control our feelings sothat people will not think we are weak. We often tend to hide the deeper-self,the self that makes us imperfect to others, that deprives us from being lovedand belonged; nevertheless, the moment that we choose to let ourselves be seen,truly be seen, that is when we decide to be vulnerable.2.
2. Common knowledge and reactions towardsvulnerabilityAs stated by Brown (2016), weoften associate vulnerability with negative feelings like grief, fear, shame, disappointment,and sadness – emotions which we avoid talking and sharing about. We tend toclose ourselves up to those feelings, and try our best effort to be perfect, to”make the uncertain certain”. What we actually do is we “numb” (Brown, 2010).We decide to shield ourselves against those feelings, against others andagainst the opportunity to love and be loved.
According to Chai, one main reactionto fear is anger, instead of showing up and let other know that we areterrified, we get angry with them, we say things we do not mean, and we shutthem out. When we are on the verge of taking a risk, we got scared and convinceourselves that it does not worth it; when we feel hurt, we find distractionsand bury it inside our heart. Gradually, as Brown has claimed, this becomes adangerous cycle, the more we are afraid to be vulnerable, the more we willnumb, and the more afraid we will be when we could not find anyone to share.
Another common false belief sharedby numerous people is vulnerability is weakness. Brown has said in her talk in2010, we are living in the world of scarcity. We constantly tell ourselves thatwe are not thin enough, not beautiful enough, not fearful enough, and not extraordinaryenough. Those thoughts within ourselves and what we tell people are completelydifferent.
When we are afraid, we show coldness; when we are ashamed, we show anger;when we are lonely, we show toughness. We are terrified of others seeing theimperfections in us, we cannot afford to be vulnerable, we believe that if theycan hear the truth about us, it means they would see our weaknesses; therefore,we will destroy the chance to find true happiness. Consequently, this beliefhas led us to avoid being vulnerable as much as possible, it makes us create a shieldaround our heart and the capability to love.2.
3. Vulnerability as the key to happiness andconnectionIn contrast with what we commonlybelieve, vulnerability has proven to be the essential key to a sense ofworthiness and connection. In her research in 2006, Brown interviewed thousandsof people about love and connection.
Whenever she ask them about love,belonging and connection, they told her about their experiences of heartbreak, beingleft out, and disconnection. Later in her research, she briefly divided herfindings into two categories: the wholehearted people, which are those who havea sense of worthiness, and those who struggle for love and belonging. She foundout that the common characteristics shared by the wholehearted people are thecourage to be imperfect, the compassion for themselves and others, theauthentic connection they have, and the willingness to fully embracevulnerability. These people do not think of vulnerability as excruciating,good, or bad, they thought of it as fundamental. They are not afraid to feel,to take the risk, to accept the uncertainties. Furthermore, they believe thatthey are enough, they believe that what makes them vulnerable, makes thembeautiful. Jacintha Akkerman (2017) had said “Vulnerability is not weakness.
…It is our greatest measure of courage.” Brown through her research has come toa realization that “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy,courage, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability andauthenticity.” When we open ourselves up to our feelings and people, we alsowelcome the possibility of true connection and happiness.On regards of this matter, RobertBiswas-Diener and Todd B. Kashdan (2013) also agreed with Brown. They suggestedthat the “key to satisfaction is doing things that feel risky, uncomfortable,and occasionally bad.
” They believe that true happy people know that happinessis not only about doing what you want, but to be willing to step out of yourcomfort-zone, to risk yourself following uncertain things, to act on your curiosity.They said that “Happy, flourishing people don’t hide from negative emotions.They acknowledge that life is full of disappointments and confront them head on…”(para. 24) Moreover, they indicated that even though embracing vulnerability ishard, it is the most direct path to strength and maturity, as well ashappiness.
This point of view is also shared with Robert Firestone (2012). Hebelieves that being vulnerable helps you experience a full range of emotions,from sadness to absolute joy and excitement, that letting yourself dive intothe uncertainties is how you can truly live to your fullest potential.2.4. How we can use vulnerability to livewholeheartedlyIn her book Daring Greatly: How the Courageto Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Brown (2012, p.
10) explainedwholehearted living is “about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness”,that is to believe that you are enough no matter what might come, and to beaware that you are “vulnerable and imperfect”, but you are worthy of “love andbelonging”. She also gave us her guideposts for wholehearted living accordingto her research. They are: cultivating authenticity (letting go of what othersthink), cultivating self-compassion (letting go of perfectionism), cultivatinga resilient spirit (letting go of numbing and powerlessness), cultivating gratitudeand joy (letting go of scarcity and fear), cultivating intuition and trustingfaith (letting go of the need for certainty), cultivating creativity (lettinggo of comparison), cultivating play and rest (letting go of exhaustion),cultivating calm and still (letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle), cultivatingmeaningful work (letting go of self-doubt), and cultivating laughter song anddance (letting go of being cool and the need to control) (p. 9). She suggestedthat in order to live wholeheartedly, we have to let ourselves be seen, vulnerablyseen, to practice compassion with ourselves, then with others, to learn joy andgratitude through all the little things we have in life, and to ask for helpwithout the fear of scarcity.3. Conclusion