We live in an age of constant sharing - from being able to share locations, to writing virtually anything on social media (or the internet in general), we sometimes can be vulnerable to people, relationships and other criticism that are unsafe for our emotional and mental health.
However, as humans... we need, and are desperate for, connection.
Vulnerability and connection are important for a purposeful life -- there's absolutely no way around it. As humans, we are wired for connection and need it in order to survive... and in order to develop meaningful relationships with people, we must practice vulnerability with ourselves and with others.
There is so much merit in opening up about our struggles -- if we're able to do this, we are able to connect more deeply with others in a truly meaningful way. Sometimes we can connect with the people close to us with positive experiences, but we almost always connect more deeply with the people with whom we share negative experiences.
This type of bonding is natural and I think even necessary, but without healthy boundaries vulnerability can be dangerous...especially if we had unsafe familial relationships as a child or are in unsafe relationships as adults.
Reasons Why Vulnerability Needs Healthy Boundaries
Safe and Unsafe People
Your story is not for everyone and we must be aware of the unsafe people that don't deserve our most vulnerable parts. Furthermore, we must evaluate our own unsafe relational traits so that our vulnerability is as pure and honest as it can be and does not serve an underlying purpose.
In his book Safe People, Dr. Henry Cloud talks about the importance of learning to discern our own character and the characters of others. He suggests that this is the only way to develop the habit of forming safe connections. Ultimately, the type of connections that breed the sort of vulnerability necessary for growth and development.
Some personal traits of unsafe people are:
they seem to have it all together and are unable to admit their weakness
are religious instead of spiritual
defensive instead of open to feedback
are self-righteous instead of humble
apologize but don't change behavior
avoid working on their problems instead of dealing with them
demand trust instead of earning it
struggle to admit their own faults
blame others instead of take responsibility
lie instead of telling the truth
stagnant instead of growing
*Safe People goes into further detail about each and can help you navigate the nuances of these types of relationships. In addition, the book can help you address your own unsafe traits and shows you how to make change.
Bonding through opening about your life's experiences can help you become more vulnerable; however, we have to be aware of the attachment we form with others as not all bonding is helpful or safe.
Trauma bonding, the bonding through traumatizing experiences, keeps people in exploitative or abusive relationships. According to Patrick Carnes, author of The Betrayal Bond, trauma bonding occurs when there is an environment that involves intensity, complexity, inconsistency and a promise. In addition, victims of a trauma bound hold on to elusive hope (of the abuser) and are willing to tolerate almost anything for a payoff aka: a deep need found within themselves that seemingly on the abuser can provide.
Consequently, this unsafe relationship and the intense emotions it brings makes healthy and safe relationships feel boring. Victims often feel addicted to the dopamine released after the intense emotional experience with their abuser, essentially numbing them to healthy, safe emotions, people and relationships. Basically, other relationships won't fill their emotional needs because they are not intense.
This back and forth, push and pull makes victims dependent on the abuser and keeps them coming back to an unsafe relationship. When people in these circumstances open up about their lives, struggles and most vulnerable parts it will more often than not be used against via manipulation by their abuser.
Levels of Vulnerability
Vulnerability needs boundaries, and as mentioned earlier, there are real-life reasons why we must protect our story, hearts and emotions.
It's difficult to understand how to be open and honest but also cautious of what you share -- for me, it often feels like a constant struggle especially because I'm just now learning how exactly to be vulnerable with myself and others.
There are ways to understand who deserves your vulnerability and how does not. I call this "Levels of Vulnerability" (I think of Shrek every time I hear the word layers or levels #Onions).
The Levels of Vulnerability is a method I created to help me gauge who I can be open with and to what degree I am open. For me this is all based on "need to know" layers of information.
Essentially, what do the different relationships need to know in order for the dynamic to still be safe both personally and inter-personally. More often than not, this has to do with the level of detail in which I describe an emotion, event or a behavior.
Let me give you a general example of what I mean by "levels" and "need to know" information.
In my last post, "3 Questions to Help You Decide Whose Opinion Matters" I address three questions that help me gauge how vulnerable I can be with others. In the case of vulnerability, the devil is in the details.
We have to decide which details are important for the relationship and which are not. We have to be able to understand that our deepest emotions are not for everyone... and that natural boundaries can be created depending on the types details that we share.
For example, I'm not going to share my triggers with an acquaintance who I met two weeks ago or someone who I know has not demonstrated empathy. Our hearts need to be protected and it's our job to do so-- we must keep ourselves safe with boundaries.
Vulnerability and boundaries are necessary for growth and development. We also need relationships and connections with people who are worthy of our story. Trust must always be earned and people don't automatically have the right to your most vulnerable self.
If we can find the balance between sharing our struggles, emotions, thoughts and behaviors with others and keeping ourselves safe, we'll find ourselves in healthy relationships and becoming the people we want to be.
LOVE YOU MEAN IT,
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