Learn To Roll

Brene Brown speaks eloquently about the willingness to be vulnerable, and how essential it is for love. (Please watch her wonderful video HERE)

A friend of mine recently told me a parable: A father was teaching his young son about trust. He had him stand on the bottom stair and jump into his arms. The father easily caught the child. Step by step, the father had the child go higher and leap. Each time, he caught him. Finally, the child was at the top step. The father's arms were open wide. "Trust me," he said, and the child jumped. The father stepped away and his son fell hard, hurting himself. "That," said the father, "will teach you never to trust anyone."

The instant I heard this story, I recognized that the father had taught the child the wrong lesson. Instead of catching him when he jumped, he should have been teaching him to roll, as in martial arts. That way, no matter how great the fall, the boy would be able to simply stand up and walk away unhurt; (or perhaps slightly bruised but at least not broken or crippled for life.)

How many of us learn not to trust, not to be vulnerable, the very first time we fall? We get hurt or humiliated or deeply disappointed, and we promise ourselves we will never experience that again.

Intellectually of course, we know that it is impossible to go through life without experiencing a hurtful or humiliating or disappointing situation, unless we choose not to take any risks. But what kind of life would we have if we NEVER took any emotional risk? Never exposed ourself to any bad feelings? What would we have to give up?

Certainly love is out - any kind of love, not just the romantic kind. We couldn't have friends or children because that would open us to hurt or disappointment. We would always be judged in some way. We couldn't create any kind of work that others would ever see such as art or music or theater, nor could we ever invent anything, unless these were made purely for our own entertainment. In fact, we could barely interact with other people. We could never take a chance, make a decision.

The point is, unless we were to go live in a cave, we can never live emotionally risk-free. Thus, either we have to learn to deal with our own vulnerability or we have to numb our fears.

How do we numb those fears? As Ms. Brown says, we can do it with drugs, alcohol, religion, anger, extremely controlling behavior, even inappropriate sex. Regardless of the method, they are all forms of denial. They are also all forms of weakness.

There is great strength in embracing the vulnerability and uncertainty. Hey, shit happens - but shit is also fertilizer.

What if you could learn to roll into the falls? What if you could take the lessons and let go of the pain?

Each time you do that, you learn that you WON'T die from disappointment; from being wrong; from having your heart broken, from being humiliated. You will just grow wiser and more philosophical.

Wouldn't it be nice to become more open as you get older instead of more frightened and closed up? Wouldn't it be lovely to be braver as you moved through life?

Learning to embrace and even love your vulnerability is one of the many topics I discuss in my lectures and an issue I can help you work through in private consulting sessions.






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August 2, 2012

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