What is emotional vulnerability? Emotional vulnerability is when an individual surrenders fully to the joys and sorrows of giving and receiving love. It is when you break open locks and tear down walls—being open and transparent.
The fear of the unknown is what blocks us from giving ourselves emotionally, because we don’t know what is on the other side. So we proceed with caution. Many are under the impression that emotional vulnerability is a sign of weakness. “If you open yourself up, then you also open yourself up to being used, manipulated, and run the risk of being hurt.” So we put up walls and barriers. People think that if they are emotionally invulnerable they are safe in all ways. And they feel in control and empowered. But without emotional vulnerability, feelings are placed on hold and there is no real intimacy and authenticity. Some of us damage and sabotage potentially good relationships, because we refuse and fear emotional vulnerability.
There are many possibilities that cause individuals to fear emotional vulnerability. For instance, repressed childhood memories; as well as a fear of being hurt, rejected, feeling stupid; or fear and over worry what others may think. While our vulnerabilities may make us feel uncomfortable and uneasy, they also can open us to greater and joyous possibilities in life. Because while we close ourselves us off from the bitterness in life, we also miss out on the sweetness it has to offer.
Our inability to be vulnerable also stems from emotional insecurity. Feeling insecure is like a living nightmare, both for the individual and their partner. There is always the burden of doubt, fear, obsessive thoughts, and feeling powerless. And the person lacks trust in themselves and in others. There is also a fear that the present positive state is only temporary. So an individual may be very shy, paranoid, or may withdraw socially. These insecurities hinder our relationships. Relationships thrive on open honesty and intimacy, in which stems from feeling you can safely connect and be yourself with your partner (acceptance).
In their highest form, vulnerabilities serve as measures of acceptance. Can we accept our authentic selves? If so, that acceptance can set us on the right path toward healing. Plutarch said, “What we achieve inwardly, will change outer reality.” I agree and would add on, “What we achieve outwardly, will change inner reality.” It all goes hand-in-hand. Everything is connected.
When we lack acceptance of our true selves, then we get stuck in behaviors that corrupt and damage our relationships. Our inner negative thinking creates the outer reactive behaviors, that become habit forming. Breaking the habit is what will set you free and catapult you into your desired life/relationships. Many of us feverishly work on identifying and listing all of the positives about ourselves. But yet still continue to perseverate on the past. When we do this, then the fear of change may still be present. And until we actively do something different, the fear and habit will remain. This is the habitual thinking that continues to keep us the way we are. Therefore, it keeps our behaviors the same as well—continuing the repeated pattern. One of the ways we can break free from the pattern is, speaking up.
Many of us sit silently in pain; and nurturing is needed. A lot of us even believe that some of our needs aren’t important, so we don’t say anything at all. If your needs in any way are not being met, then you need to voice them. Also, sometimes the walls begin to form because we think we see a red flag in our relationships. And instead of talking about it and working through the problem, we put up our great wall of protection.
First and foremost, voice the issue to yourself, then voice them to your partner. You may not need to get everything you need from your partner; sometimes we can help ourselves. However, there are other needs that we need met; so it should be voiced and valued. Asking for what you need is a part of your healing process. No one will know your story, concerns, and needs if you do not speak up.
Sometimes, our partner hurts us unintentionally, because they are hurting and/or they may not know are sensitive areas. We all have them; you are not alone. And if your partner is not aware of your sensitive areas or what bothers you the most, then how will they know what behaviors they need to change of their own. So, share your feelings with others. Your feelings are not wrong, nor are they shameful. You have feelings, just the same as they do. In addition, you and your partner both have a painful story to share.
Once, you have voiced your concerns to your partner, give them a chance to change the behavior. Stop replaying the one time they hurt your feelings and triggered a soft spot. Instead of replaying it over and over, expecting for it to happen again—allow your partner to work through the problem with you.
I know some of you may be thinking while reading this, ‘but I did voice my needs and shared my story and they didn’t change or they used it against me.’ Unfortunately, we will experience the partners who are not sensitive to our needs. And in some relationships, it can become hurtful and abusive. However, if you choose to stick around, then you chose to continue in your unhealthy vicious cycle. And as a result, you chose to play the victim role. Notice how I used the words, “you chose.” These are the choices that you are making, and you can also choose to STOP making them, in order for the cycle to discontinue. Sometimes, we put ourselves in situations and we choose to stay, hoping that the other person will change. Or we may push our feelings to the side, to help save the other person. And our needs are never met. This may be an issue with boundaries and/or codependency (I will discuss these in a later article).
Anyways, keep in mind you are the only one you have control over. And you are the only one you can change. Acknowledge your feelings and the areas of yourself that you lack confidence in. Identify where these feelings came from. In other words, if you are “fearful” then identify what you are fearful of. Then explore, why. Why do I fear rejection? Why do I fear manipulation? Get in touch with what happened or is happening.
Then practice telling your partner how you feel when these occur. We all need and deserve a safe space where we can voice our emotional pain and still be accepted. For example, in a calm tone, “I felt sad and rejected because I thought that you did not want to spend time with me, when you didn’t answer/return my calls.”
You have now opened the situation up for discussion; and you addressed it in a non accusatory way. You have exposed your emotions and vulnerability. I don’t know about you, but personally I don’t like to express to others when their lack of attention made me feel sad/rejected. In my mind, I feel as if I am exposing my emotional attachment to the other person. And I don’t want them to know how much I do care and how their (non)behaviors have an affect on me. It may sound silly and juvenile, but I feel as if I am giving them some type of special power and importance. I either did not know how to effectively communicate my feelings (irrational screaming and hollering); or I feared being a burden and them rejecting me. Consequently, not speaking up caused me to feel rejected even more. And of course, the irrational “popping off at the mouth” didn’t bode to well either. In short, if we do not effectively communicate,our person is not aware of the problem; and we do not allow them the opportunity to understand us on a deeper level.
It is important to check with yourself, and if you are being reasonable and fair. Sometimes we want so much from others; and instead, we need to turn inward; be more self reliant; and soothe our own needs. Create a list and honestly identify your needs, values, and what is important to you in a relationship. Create a row for each list. Some things may overlap, and that is okay.
You can even choose to do this with your partner to see what you both come up with.
Also, it is important for you to know how to effectively communicate. The timing and how we say something, matters A LOT! The whole purpose is to be supportive of one another, and create a safe nurturing environment.
Continue to use this same method to express good feelings that your partner gives you as well. For example, “You made me feel happy and made my day, when you left me a love letter on the fridge this morning. I appreciate you.”
This was simple to the point, and was not overly emotional and dramatic. Just as it is important to voice what we don’t like to extinguish a behavior—the same goes when expressing what we do like, so a behavior will continue (praise/positive reinforcement.) Your partner is a human being with feelings as well. They need to feel safe, loved, trusted, and accepted in your relationship. And valued!
Lastly, write a journal note of the situation— how you addressed it, the discussion, and outcome. Write about how the two of you worked through the problem together. As well as, how you felt afterward. I am a firm believer in praising your personal accomplishments. And in this case, the more you identify your successes, the more you will begin to trust yourself, your partner, and the process of your relationship.
You will find that even though the process may not be easy, YOUR RELATIONSHIP IS WORTH IT!
Veronica J Burgess, has over 7 years working in the mental health/therapy field. Veronica has a Bachelors of Science in Child Development and Family Relations, Indiana University of Pennsylvania. And, a Masters in Social Worker--Direct Practice, University of Pittsburgh. Veronica is state certified in Functional Behavioral Assessment. And is trained in Trauma Focused Therapy. Veronica currently is a therapist working with children and their families. As a gifted tarot reader, she has had the privilege of working with many clients from various countries and walks of life. She has a partner affiliation with SelfGrowth.com, where she is a part of the expert community. Veronica is a member of the American Tarot Association and Tarosophy--Tarot Professionals.