On Vulnerability

Confronted by their true selves, most men run away screaming! (women too)

These words uttered by Engywook from the NeverEnding Story have been playing in my mind lately. In fact, whenever I feel that familiar discomfort with vulnerability in myself… and it happens often. These words are also reassuring to my clients: the brave souls who resonate with this universal fear as they intrepidly step into the unexplored space of self-discovery.

In the NeverEnding Story, Atreyu has to cross the Magic Mirror Gate by facing his true self. Even with a luck dragon to ride, it is a terrifying prospect for him. Sadly, without our own luck dragons to take us into our quest, we can feel utterly alone in our fears. What is it about encountering the truth of ourselves that can indeed send us screaming and running – or in this world – eating, drinking, TV watching, facebooking and many other less scary distractions?

Could it be, as Angywook points out, that “kind people find out that they are cruel. Brave men discover that they are really cowards”. Is it the fear that we won’t like what we find? That we would rather not know? That we will be compelled to take ownership of our lives?

Perhaps one of the harshest obstacles to facing our true selves is the immobilising fear that we won’t be able to bear what we find. That we will be powerlessly vulnerable.

And the truth is, we will be vulnerable. And vulnerability isn’t comfortable, nor is it always easy. It can be abrasive in its rawness, painfully searing in its honesty, and deeply incisive in its intensity. It is the honesty to face the parts of ourselves we can’t stand. It’s the honesty to face our uncomfortable and unpleasant past experiences. It’s the truthful intensity of fully and deeply feeling. It’s also the honesty that we do have the power to harness our lives. The honesty of our own awe. And that is terrifying. And it takes bold courage to go there.

Vulnerability is worthy of running and screaming. It’s terrifying in its nakedness. But it’s also liberating, exhilarating, expanding and gives us access to a far deeper peace than evading the Magic Mirror Gate ever can. It illuminates parts of ourselves we may never have recognised, parts that we may be really surprised by. Parts that may delight and uplift us to soaring heights. But it’s not comfortable. It’s daunting and intimidating.

And it is always life enhancing.

Walking through the Magic Mirror Gate changes us. We can only completely accept ourselves by facing our true selves head on. And that honesty and self-acceptance is beautifully transformative. The vulnerability paradox is that when we courageously do face our real deep vulnerability, we are freed to experience more vulnerability as we become more at ease with our authentic self. And the grips of terror loosen. And we start to choose vulnerability over avoidance. We become stronger and softer in our vulnerability …. in all of its life enhancing forms. And we discover life in a way we never had before.

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