Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Vulnerability Fosters Kindness. Kindness is the Key to Vulnerability

Vulnerability Fosters Kindness.   Kindness is the Key to Vulnerability

Imagine a knight coming home from battle and without taking off his armor, trying to make love with his anxiously awaiting queen.  Possible maybe, but not very satisfying.

Taking off our armor and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is required to develop personal relationships — necessary in friendship and for the preservation of passionate sex in long-term monogamous relationships.  In addition, vulnerability allows a connection to life that fosters personal and cultural development.

The capacity to be vulnerable is the next developmental edge.  It is a strength both men and women must develop in order to develop “Erotic Partnership.”  Yet many seem to feel that vulnerability is weakness. 

Psychological defenses such as vigilance, emotional numbing, rationalization and fixing blame provide armor for the spears and arrows of life.  And while it’s true that this armor chaffs, and some of us seek a more full-bodied connection,  it’s also true that modern psychological life is filled with real dangers.  We must have advanced skill to walk into the world open and exposed.

We strengthen this capacity for connection in the world through connection in our more intimate relationships.  And we develop intimacy with others as we become more intimate with ourselves.

In my own life and in the work that I do with couples who are striving to make the most of their relationships, it is clear: vulnerability fosters kindness and compassion.  Kindness and compassion fosters vulnerability — a reciprocal cycle of engagement, safety, aliveness and satisfaction.  Or conversely, defensiveness fosters fear, shame, withdrawal or attack, and leads to a vicious cycle of aloneness and dissatisfaction.  We need only look at our current political culture to see this in action.

Vulnerability requires a love for truth.  When we become vulnerable, we become vulnerable to the truth of who we are, to considering the ways that others see us that do not fit with how we want to be.  And when we become vulnerable, we become open to the truth of other’s experience, even when we would prefer that they feel differently than they do.  

What does vulnerability look like?  How can one foster it? One basic method is to relax your body, slow down your thoughts, soften into emotions and open to new possibilities.  When sinking into vulnerability, many feel some sadness or tears with or without awareness of what the sadness is about.  

Of course, psychological armor is often difficult to remove, even when we genuinely want to. When we open toward vulnerability, the painfulness of the life we have lived can trigger intense anxiety, shame, confusion, etc.  Even with the intention of taking off our armor, some part of us that lives in our body and emotions may not be convinced that it is safe to do so.  

For this reason, moving more deeply into vulnerability with another requires working internally to integrate our bodies, emotions and intentions.  In other words, the more we have faced the truth of ourselves and worked to accept others’ differences, the easier it is to be vulnerable in our relationships.  

Here is a quote from Dan Seigel which discusses vulnerability and integration:

The outcome of integration is harmony, whereas a system that is not integrated moves toward chaos, rigidity, or both. Beyond just being within us, integration can also be seen as being between us. Integrated relationships are filled with honoring of differences and the linkage of compassionate communication. In a fascinating way, integration interpersonally promotes the activation and growth of integration neurologically. Integration between cultivates integration within.
Kindness can be defined as how we honor and support one another's vulnerability. In this open, authentic state, our inner needs and fragility is realized. Compassion can be defined as the empathic feeling and understanding of another's internal state of suffering, and the wise and skillful means of imagining and enacting ways to help reduce that suffering. In this way, both kindness and compassion can be seen as acts of integration.

We are a web of interconnections sitting within a web of interconnections.  When we bring kindness and compassion into our relationships we strengthen that web.  Kindness and compassion are the result of a well exercised emotional system.  When we integrate our minds, emotions and bodies with others, we can find a sense of resilience through inner alignment and in our connection with the others.

Nature offers us pleasure if we follow her direction.  If we have not been conditioned otherwise, our bodies find pleasure in the closeness of another.  And when we align our emotional selves through internal and external vulnerability and kindness we discover deep pleasure.  Put them together and you have “Erotic Partnership.”  I believe that this kind of pleasure is an indication of being aligned with life’s purpose.

So there we have it.  When we are kind, we foster vulnerability.  When we are vulnerable we open to and foster the interconnectivity of life in ourselves and between ourselves and others. 

Practice kindness and vulnerability and you will find that you will have an embodied experience of gratitude.     

Kindness/Naomi Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day
to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.


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