Thursday I got another lesson in vulnerability and it is has been something I have been considering for the past few days.
Since I was abused by people who were supposed to care for me and who I was supposed to be able to trust I have found it difficult to trust others.
I’ve been working on this because I know it is an important step in all relationships. Being able to share yourself with others is something that we all need. We all need to find a way to let go of our guard and really share who we are.
I have no problem being transparent with my life. I can share my hopes, dreams and desires. I can share my life story and how I process things but there are certain parts of myself that I hold back.
One part has been my feelings. For the better part of my life I thought that my feelings were bad and I had dissociated them. I would start to feel something and then immediately I would push it away. This happens to me a lot in therapy. I will start to feel sad and the moment I try to connect to it, it goes away and I am left feeling blank.
I have started to share my feelings. I have started to share my needs which is another huge step for me. I used to keep my needs to myself for fear that no one would ever meet them. I have gotten better at telling myself as well as my friends and family about my needs. For the most part, they seem to be able to handle and/or meet my needs but that doesn’t mean that they always do.
This is part of being vulnerable, you have to open yourself up to the possibility of either being loved or being hurt. You have to be wiling to take the gamble.
So I have been learning to be vulnerable with my feelings and that is hard enough but now I have to learn how to be vulnerable with my expressions.
I have this weird tick if you will. Whenever I am mad at someone or upset or even sad I will start to smile.
A few therapists ago, I had one who told me some upsetting news and then he asked me to read his face. It reminded me of a scene from Bones where Sweets is trying to teach Brennan how to read facial expressions and then manipulate people into opening up to her.
My therapist showed me his face and asked me what I saw. They only thing I saw was anger. Then he started reading my faced and when he told me I looked sad I started to smile.
He asked me why I was smiling and I said that I didn’t want him to be sad that I was sad and I didn’t want him to see that I was sad.
I was vulnerable in that moment and wanted to end the moment by smiling. In this case I knew what I was doing but in some cases I will be smiling at the wrong time without even knowing I am doing it.
Thursday in therapy I was trying to tell my therapist how much him saying that I was a burden last week had hurt me. He explained that we had different meanings for burden. He didn’t want me to feel like I couldn’t take up space which is what it sounded like I was struggling with. And I realized that our definitions of burden were very different.
Anyway I brought up how upsetting that was for me and was inadvertently smiling while doing it. He asked me to try to show him with my face what that was like. So with my words and my face I showed him. I teared up and said that it was hurtful and that I didn’t like thinking that I burdened my friends and family that when he said that it felt like he was confirming the lie that I believe. The lie that no one wants to spend time with me, that they are forced to spend time with me.
While we were having this conversation I began to sit up and he began to scoot to the edge of his chair. By the time the conversation was over we were closer both in proximity and in intimacy.
And I began to realize that hiding my expressions from my face was denying myself and my friends the intimacy of seeing how I actually felt. He said he could actually see and feel what I was feeling. My feelings did not become his own but he could begin to see how much he had hurt me and in allowing him to see it I allowed him to get closer to me.
Of all my therapists this last one has really helped me relationally.
I actually said out loud, “Crap” (except if you know me, you know I didn’t say crap 🙂 ). I realized that if I want all my relationships to be this close I have to let others see how they effect me. I have to let them see how much their influence in my life changes me and if they hurt me I have to let them see that as well.
Which just means I have to be even more vulnerable which is exciting and scary.
I am just now realizing all the complexities that are associated with being vulnerable and even though I know they are scary they are also worth the journey.