A child falls over and grazes their knees. The resulting expression of feelings causes their caregivers to come running and tend to the child’s needs. Not long after the fall the child is up and running again like nothing happened. So what just took place? Why are children so resilient and so good at making a comeback? Is it because they are vulnerable?
The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of vulnerability is – ‘Exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally’.
Wow! That is not a place most would want to be and it is at odds with the basic hard-wired human survival instinct that kicks in when there is a chance of harm making itself known to us.
This dictionary also goes on to say the word comes from the Latin word ‘vulnerare’ that means ‘to wound’. Given what the word means, it’s not surprising that many of us would say that the risk is too great to be totally vulnerable.
During a regular chat with my mentor who I will call the Wise Old Owl, he passed comment about how there was great power in vulnerability. So I tested him by asking how this was possible, if by being vulnerable you are opening yourself up to being attacked or harmed.
He smiled and responded by saying that when a baby is born there is both tremendous power and vulnerability. The baby is totally reliant on its caregivers and cannot survive without them so is completely vulnerable. The power lies in the potential of an entire life ahead full of unlimited possibilities. Then there is the power of the baby’s inborn hardwiring to struggle and break free from the constraints provided by its body and life.
Then the Wise Old Owl went onto say that when a person is about to die there is so much power in this vulnerability. On one hand they are completely vulnerable to the forces that have gathered that will result in their passing. Whether it is an illness or even the laws of physics having their way with a vehicle spiralling out of control on a slippery road. In these moments there is total vulnerability. The power lies within the person’s life shaping a part of the universe. This shaping influence on the universe is so powerful, nothing can change it. Pretty deep huh? The Wise Old Owl then challenged me to demonstrate a decent understanding of vulnerability by the next time we met.
So one of the examples I came up with over the following week was when somebody is tearful. You are effectively telling a story with your whole heart.
You are having the courage to show your feelings really, truly, deeply.
Or… are you a person that is so strong there is nothing anybody can do for you or with you? Were you told that to show your feelings is weak so the baby you started life as grew into somebody you thought you should be rather than being who you are?
Do you know who you are?
Do you know what is important to you?
Or have you simply denied who you are and are maintaining a coping façade by buying more things (debt), eating more food (weight gain), drinking more alcohol (addictions) or having more doctor’s visits (medication).
Numbers don’t lie. This is what the numbers are telling us all over the world about our generation.
What on earth happened to the baby?
At the beginning or end of our lives we feel the most alive because we are the most vulnerable. And this is when the true quality of who we are is manifested. We either cry out for love and food from our caregivers or we tell those who we have taken with us throughout our life that we love them without worrying about whether they will tell us the same. Powerful stuff huh?
Stay tuned for my next blog where I will explore why I think that vulnerability is one of the cornerstones of effectiveness in the workplace and how it relates to the 4 effective thinking styles of the Human Synergistics Circumplex.