Power of Vulnerability

The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown

by Ron Vitale

Twitter has once again proved how serendipity is wonderful and amazing. Last night I started scrolling through the people I'm following in #MYWANA (We Are Not Alone hashtag for writers) when I stumbled across a tweet from ischaffenburg about "The True Power of Letting Go." You see, that's always been difficult for me to do: Letting go. Without getting all pyscho-drama-ery, I like to think of it in a very simple way:

My father abused my mother and domestic violence existed in my home. He left my mom, brother and I when I was four years of age. In growing up, I've always struggled with fear of abandonment. And to compensate, I hold on for dear life. Why would I share this with the world? It's simple. I've struggled much of my life with this and know that by not talking, writing or expressing it I'm allowing those feelings to own me. And I don't want that. By admitting my weakness and sharing it, I become stronger.

Vulnerability is not an easy thing to accept, but, at some level, we all do. When I stumbled upon Brené Brown's TED talk last night, I wasn't quite sure what I would be watching. I sat back and had to stop it and play it again to watch with my wife. She and I have both been working hard on dealing with our internal demons and we both sat there hearing Brown say what we already know:

"We are the most in debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in American history."

Don't feel good about something? Eat a muffin, drink some beer or buy clothes, movie or a new iPad. That will make us feel good, right? We're doing anything as a people except be vulnerable, authentic and addressing our problems.

Think about it. Or, would you rather be numb? Brown's theory is pretty interesting. We number ourselves from feeling vulnerable and dealing with all that messiness but that not only allows us to cope with the bad feelings but also with the good ones. We cannot selectively numb emotion. It's the good feelings as well as the not so good ones that we block out.

Brown talks about two basic groups that she uncovered in her research on vulnerability:

  • People who have a strong sense of love and belonging.
  • People who are always struggling for a sense of belonging

And what I found pretty amazing is that the "difference between the two groups of people? It's only that people believe they are worthy of love and belonging. That's the only difference between the two groups. Our fear that we're not worthy of connection keeps us from it."

Pretty interesting. A long time ago I made a choice and that choice was to be me. For all that it's worth, I'm pretty damn happy with who I am. People who know me know what my faults are, my quirks, but at the end of the day, I'm willing to put myself on the line because I believe in myself and believe that the point (if there is one) for me to be here on this planet is to simply share my experiences to the world.

When I look in the mirror, I smile. Brown has a very simple message. One that I would like to share with you: "I am enough." The message is simplistic, seemingly too much so, but the devil's in the details. It's very easy for us to dismiss all this new age nonsense, or we could take a serious look at our lives and move forward to embrace vulnerability.

In my writing, I explore the uncomfortable parts of life. I might write about fantasy, witches, fairies and magic, but I also explore emotion--love, rejection, fear and shame. A long time ago back in college I took a class on dysfunctional families and I recall our teacher telling all of us to stand in the center of the room and to "act crazy." We all did that, but I chose to walk away and head toward the window. She stopped the group and asked me what I was doing and I simply said, "Getting away."

I have long known that I have the power to not repeat abuse, addiction and the self-destructive patterns that I was raised in. For me, it's sharing those stories, facing my fears and letting them go. I wrote my Masters thesis on this topic and I keep working at all of this because it's essential. It's my most important job. I do all of this so that not only can I become a better person but also so that the relationships I form with my kids, wife, extended family and friends can also be healthy and strong.

I'll end with asking: Are you enough? Who do you want to be? Will you be the whole hearted person who is courageous and puts your vulnerabilities out there for those who know you to see? Or, will you medicate yourself, number yourself with experiences and things to shield you from your emotions and your true potential? Is it that simple and black & white? I don't know. Why don't you look in the mirror and ask yourself the question? You might be amazed at what you discover.