How We Protect Ourselves From Vulnerability

If you’ve ever watched Brené Brown in a TED talk or read her books, you know vulnerability is the key to love, joy, peace, belonging, and happiness.

 

Crazy huh. We think the key to being loved and respected is to pretend our lives are perfect and to fool people into thinking we’ve got it all together.

 

Nope, nada, not.

 

I would encourage every human to listen to the audio book called, The Power of Vulnerability. You can download it onto your iPad or iPhone now. In fact, when you first register with Audible, you can download all the free books you can listen to in a month. Audible.com 

 

In one of the chapters Brown talks about how we protect ourselves from vulnerability. Here are just two of the ways:

 

1. Floodlighting

 

You might be wondering if there is such a thing as too much vulnerability?

 

Yes, says Brown, “Over-sharing is not vulnerability.” (We see this all the time in social media.)


Decorative christmas lights for a back yard party

 

She says that when we share our stories with people who’ve earned the right to hear them, when we practice vulnerability, and when we get brave and share something vulnerable, and you return with empathy, it is like tiny twinkle lights of connection, courage, and compassion.  In between these lights are trust and vulnerability.  These tiny lights of connection form something called intimacy.

 

But, if I just shared—not mindfully, without any thought to what our relationship is, or what it can bear, or whether or not you’ve earned the right to hear my story—it does not create little strands of intimacy. It creates a floodlight that overwhelms people.

 

What would you physically do if someone shined a floodlight in your face? You would cringe, squint your face, and pull away. That’s what we feel like when others share inappropriately? It’s TMI.

 

Too much information.

 

Sometimes we over-share to protect ourselves from vulnerability. Imagine if I’m scared to let you know something, so I floodlight you. You immediately respond with hands up and push me away. Then I can say, “See no one cares about me.”

 

You just engaged in a behavior that confirms your fear.

 

2. Smash and Grab

 

This is what happens when I smash you down with hardcore information and grab whatever attention I can get from you. Here’s an example Brown shared: Some teachers were in the break room talking about about how tough standardized testing is. Suddenly another teacher says, “Well you think that’s bad, my dad tried to commit suicide last week.”

 

Even if she was friends with the other teachers, that’s not vulnerability. It causes people to pull away rather than want to respond with empathy. When it happens to us we feel angry and manipulated.

 

Brown cautions that shame is often the driving force behind “floodlighting” and “smash and grab.” The people who use these techniquess find it hard to believe anyone could sympathize, so they try to manipulate the response from those around them.

 

 Can you think of a time when someone shared too much information or tried to flood you for sympathy? What was your reaction? 

Here’s more:

 

 


 


Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty professor at Colorado Christian University.

She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice."

2 Comments

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