To expose our wounds to people we care about – the icky stuff, the ego stuff, the personal growth edges we’re working on that we haven’t yet mastered – is super vulnerable. Letting others see our “big ugly tails” (hat tip to my dear friend Amy Ahlers, who has seen my big ugly tail and trusted me enough to let me see hers) tends to trigger all our core fears of rejection and abandonment, of withdrawal of love. But to bear witness to someone’s wound is a privilege and an opportunity to deepen the relationship beyond the idealistic views we might have of each other into the real truth of both our light and our shadows.
This doesn’t mean it’s anyone else’s job to baby our “owies.” But when we’ve exposed our vulnerable wounds to those we care about – and asked, but not expected them to tread gently around our wounds, we have a choice. We can poke needles into each other’s wounds – because now we know them and dang it, it’s their dark stuff to work on. Or we can choose to put salve on the wounds of those we love – not codependent salve that enables the wound, but more like a gentle touch with lavender oil to make something stinky smell a bit sweeter and to acknowledge the vulnerability and handle it gently.
Love Is Like A Jar Of Marbles
When we have been vulnerable enough to expose those wounds – and own them – and when we then ask those we love to be gentle with our wounds – and they choose to do so – it starts to feel like love. As Brené Brown writes about in her New York Times bestseller Daring Greatly, intimacy is like a jar of marbles. (I wrote about this analogy in more depth here).
The more we expose our vulnerabilities – and someone handles our sensitive spots gently, the more marbles we gather in the jar. Trust grows as the jar becomes more full of marbles. But when someone betrays that trust or chooses to stick needles in the wounds of our vulnerability, we lose marbles in the jar. If someone uses our vulnerability against us, we may feel like dumping out the whole jar of marbles. Over time, the strength of the relationship is based on how many marbles are in the jar.
(To listen in as Brené Brown and I dish on vulnerability and how it affects our health, sign up here to receive the recording of our FREE telejam.)