For many people, those aren’t words to consider. I agree. I was one of them. And to some extent still am, as I see unfolding as a process. However, once I begin to surrender, to let the heart be open, to unfold as the great river Lotus, I began to realize I needed to change the way I thought about vulnerability and openness.
Our family are cat people. Always have been, despite having what has been termed, “strong dog medicine.” Cats just seem easier. One day I was sitting in the living room when a big Hobo spider made a dash across the living room floor. I mean a dash. I was astounded at how fast the critter went. I started thinking about how fast it covered so many feet and how that computed to miles per hour, but that was after the cat noticed it. The cat was faster, and the spider was history. Having been in Mexico, I’ve seen Tarantulas, even toyed with them. They were slow. Scorpions on the other hand, are not. It dawned on me that the animal and insect world have natural defenses. Take the skunk for example. Or my former housemate spider. He was fast as spiders go. So why does he have this defense? What vulnerability does that defense protect? That of tasting good? High protein content? A necessary part of the biological make-up of bacteria moving up the food chain? A turtle has its shell. The elephant it’s size. The skunk it’s stink. What do us humans have?
I know you’d love to say our minds. But what does a child human have to protect it from a sexual predator? Certainly not it’s mind. We all know that the mind grows as we do. And that makes the human child very vulnerable indeed. We have no natural shell, not any great speed, size, or strength. In our naked form, we are quite vulnerable indeed. So what’s wrong with that?
For most of us, we relate with other human beings. It’s the natural course mostly because it’s the language we speak that ties us together. It is also those relationships that create the inner armor we develop to protect ourselves from other human beings. Which I had done. Most of us know that words can be hurtful. Words and actions, both omitted and committed, can diminish a person’s self confidence. And even if that process is a slow one over many years, the natural aspect of vulnerability begins to harden like a callous.
Pain is not the end of the world. I didn’t believe that. I feared crying partly because I didn’t think it would ever stop. I discovered that wasn’t true. I had somewhere along the lines equated being vulnerable with being weak, in the sense of wounded, incapable. I had a lot of shame wrapped around my pain, and that made it doubly more important to hide it. Over the years a lot of energy was spent in repressing, reaction formation(hypertrophy), intellectualization, inhibitions and avoidance to some degree. Likely, projection and transference, but suffice it to say, I protected myself. I armored myself.
Have you ever watched a war movie, like Band of Brothers, or Saving Private Ryan, or parts of Forrest Gump? In the beginning, they start out all loaded with gear. All kinds of it. Helmets, weapons, packs with stuff, stuff, and more stuff. Ever notice what happens as the movie progresses? Especially when it gets hot and heavy? The stuff starts coming off. If they know they’re going into it, they don’t even bring it. They increase their vulnerability by having less on that might stop or deflect a mortal wound. It’s really difficult to function with all that armor on. They make it easier to kill while making themselves more vulnerable. That’s the nature of relationships at war.
As a firefighter I have a similar situation. When in a fire though, I don’t have much choice, because the fire is just doing its thing. It isn’t out to maliciously hurt me. So if I disarm myself? By the nature of things I hurt myself. Which is of course why we arm ourselves, is it not? The world is malicious, people are hurtful, and mean, and unkind. So we armor up and weapon up and go out ready for the battle. Unnaturally.
I’m tired of that way of living. I want relationships of life. Nakedly, vulnerable, open.