Ask yourself what is your immediate thought when I mentioned the word vulnerability?
Strength or Weakness?
Or a mixture of both?
Most men will associate it at some level with weakness.
If you’ve said a mixture, there are things in your past you have caveats with being open about. You feel you may be attacked because of these things. Which actually means you’ve attacked yourself already, as you’ve judged yourself for them therefore believing others will do the same. For if you hadn’t there would be no need to have caveats.
If you’ve said weakness or a mixture then you’ve judged. Judgement is a label on a story. An event, situation or circumstance we were involved in and judged good or bad, right or wrong, positive or negative.
If you ask a person about these situations or events and you may receive the ‘whole story’ in intricate detail. I’m guessing you’ve had one of those conversations before. Maybe you’ve gone to provide an alternative viewpoint only to have that shot down and the drama of the story to continue.
Men often label women as masters of drama. Believing women just get wrapped up in the drama of it. ‘Why can’t you just let it go?!?’
But get men onto a subject they are passionate about and the same can occur.
The common factor is not the story, but the emotion underlying the story. The underlying emotion is the thing that wraps people up in the drama. Their cognitive mind is engrossed in the story, while their emotional mind is running the show pumping sensations and feelings into their being, often without conscious awareness of the individual.
Then there are men who are just a closed book. You can’t seem to get a rise out of them at all. They may be great at what they do for a living, master craftsmen, awesome engineers or brilliant doctors, but they are closed.
One of the biggest reasons cited by women for relationship break down is an emotionally distant partner.
Raise the issue of being emotionally closed or distant with some men and they will say you don’t know what you’re talking about. They may elaborate on ‘what is going on for them’. But if you listen, something is not quite right. Question them further and you get more of the same argument. This is because they are telling you the story to avoid what they are feeling. And if you ask them how they are feeling you’ll receive a thought not a feeling.
‘Good’, or ‘fine’ are not feelings, they are thoughts.
‘Happy’, ‘joyful’, ‘peaceful’, ‘angry’, ‘ashamed’ or ‘afraid’ are all feelings.
If a person says: “I feel like ….”, or “I feel that ….” Whatever comes next is a thought not a feeling. So it’s part of the story occupying their cognitive mind.
Responses like this don’t breed connection between people. If a connection happens to occur, it’s because of the unconscious underlying emotion the two people pick up on, but will be short lived.
I often ask men how they are feeling. More often than not I receive a story about work, about the kids or their partner.
The issue with the story is it’s based on a perception and it’s not the source issue.
The reason police don’t like when anymore than two people witness a situation is because of perception. Two people can witness the exact same event and walk away with two very different stories. Just look at most workplace disputes, relationship arguments, sporting games and the list goes on.
Why talk so long about the story; about it stemming from perception?
Because vulnerability is ultimately linked to a person’s judgement or perception of the story without acknowledgement of the real factor involved – the emotion. And when the emotion is mentioned, more often than not it’s a thought not an emotion.
We run from our feelings and that’s why we fear being vulnerable.
We run to work, run to the pub, run to the shops, run to the social event, or run to physical activity. You name the situation we run to and it’s an escape from feeling the underlying emotion.
Or the other Male practice is to stone wall, which is really running to their defenses. To convince themselves they don’t do emotions and tell everyone they are fine, it doesn’t bother them or they may not even enter the conversation. When this happens it leaves their partner with a distant feeling. A lack of connection starts within the relationship. Many men will simply allow themselves to become busier with work and life, continuing on as best they can, living a hard, dedicate, loyal, adequate life. Often with multiple marriages, and if the same relationship lasts, it will often be devoid of true love.
At times an acceptance will set in surmised by the statement, “This is life and that’s how it goes.”
Call this what it is, defeatist, and you will often receive a defensive come back.
None of this matters as it’s all at the same level of the problem. It’s in the story. The source, not symptom, is the underlying emotions.
Why? Why all this lock down on emotions?
Well it’s not as if we received Emotions 101: How To Use Your Emotions, Not Be Abuse By Them, at high school. (We’re attempting to change that with the Young Warrior Project)
What tends to happen is we allow ourselves to feel in relation to what others think, do or say about and around us.
We Men have set ourselves up in a vicious cycle of external recognition. We need to be seen as infallible, as having the answers, as having the capability to fix the situation. We have set ourselves up to take all this on our shoulders in the belief that if we just remain man enough, we can get through life, and possibly be successful. If we don’t have the solution or capability then we are less than. Less than a Man. Is there any wonder why so many men are developing a sense of hollowness, or depression currently.
And how does this relate to vulnerability?
Well no one wants their self image to be trodden on. No one wants to be known as less than. And if they say they don’t care, generally it’s because they’ve reached a point of exhaustion leading to apathy. This is also directly related to depression so doesn’t serve either.
Is this simply a men’s issue? Hell No! But men currently have the largest issue with vulnerability and the only solution to this problem is having the courage to walk through the emotional door and see what’s on the other side.
So again, let’s come back to vulnerability.
Vulnerability is a perception. Remembering you can only feel vulnerable when you have judged yourself as less than. Therefore shame, embarrassment, defensiveness, resentment, frustration and anger may all follow.
Men don’t want to feel ashamed; no one does. And it takes a Big Man to acknowledge the decision they made at the time may not have been the best. Not that THEY were wrong, as their name is not “Wrong”. Wrong is a judgement of a thought, word or deed a person had, not a judgement of the person themselves. However, at a subconscious level any distinct is lost.
The labeling of self as opposed to a person’s actions as wrong or inadequate is central to most of the social and person issues faced currently. We label the person as their thought, word or deed, instead of acknowledging these are simply things the person did, not WHO they are. And it all started with “You’re a silly little boy”, “Stop being so stupid” etc. Not to put to fine a point to this, but the distinction between a persons actions and who they are, can on it’s own save lives, as suicide is often linked to shame about who a person believes they are.
Linked to vulnerability is a perceived need to control. Control stems from trust issues. Just look how we interact with kids. We’ll place more control measures where we believe they can’t be trusted to come to a successful outcome. We do something very similar with ourselves.
Then add the emotions of fear, shame and guilt, all of which are linked to trust issues, and we get internal pain. As can be seen in the above discussion about the story, this all centres around a perception we make. A perception of how we believe the outcome should be.
We allow most of our perception to be ruled by things external to us, things out of our control; and interestingly enough this includes self worth. So most of us won’t want to be vulnerable for fear of negative recognition from people they can’t control.
If you’re a man reading this and it makes sense to a point, but you’re still skeptical, then have a open conversation with a woman you trust and ask them, “What is most important to you in a relationship?”
Nine times out of ten they will say something along the lines of open and honest communication. You can’t have open and honest communication without being vulnerable. Integrity, the ability to act in alignment to your true self, and honesty, the ability to communicate from your true self, require vulnerability to develop.
Am I saying the solution is for everyone to walk around with their heart on their sleeve – HELL NO!
For this often creates more issues than it solves.
Yes, there are times and places for the expression of emotion. It all comes down to a persons/groups priorities in the moment which are aligned to a desired outcome. At times using the emotional suppressive techniques of distraction, disassociation or mood altering, are relevant to clear the mind and regain focus to achieve the task. Just as at times it’s best to get back on the horse, but at times it’s best to stop and not.
The difference is whether a person comes back to the underlying emotion and allows themselves to feel it fully to gain the message it was attempting to convey. Thereby honouring themselves, and often the group if the emotion came up in a group setting.
What I’m suggesting is for men to become true leaders in society, in their families, in business, in life; they need to actually allow their hearts to open and not just feel emotions, but understand the messages they are trying to communicate.
I say Emotional Literacy, as opposed to the often purported Emotional Intelligence. The latter has been theorized to the point of trying to think our way through emotions, which is impossible.
Emotional Literacy, I define, as being able to feel what you want to feel; when you want to feel it; to the extent and duration you want; understanding the message it’s conveying about you and your environment. This is a practical skill not a theoretical concept, and can only be done by the individual feeling the feeling.
If we want to end work place harassment, school yard bullying, huge divorce rates, depression and suicide issues, we need to relook at how we see vulnerability.
If you’re a Man who wants to step through the emotional door and see what’s on the other side; if you’re a man who wants to deepen your connection to yourself and those you love; then Awakening The Warrior Within can help you put aside your suit of armour. For more information click the links or icon to the right.