Tag Archives: vulnerability

Tell Me if I’m Wrong…Because I Want to be Right– Part 2

13 May

Listen and LookIn my previous post I posed this question:

In science, researchers seek out data than can disprove their hypotheses. Contradictory evidence shows them where their biases lie and signals how a new direction might need to be explored. They search for plausible rival explanations. Do you? Do you challenge your first thought and work at discovering alternatives that might prove you wrong?

Brene Brown, a social scientist, psychologist, and researcher at the University of Houston, calls this ‘showing up’ behavior, an act of vulnerability. In essence, it’s inviting in the discomfort that could ultimately prove to bolster your creativity, connection, and sense of belonging. Because to err is human, without the courage to experience failure, and to trust others to be with and hear our shame when we fail or make mistakes, we actively build a wall around the most basic psychological needs that determine our desire to be bold, to be resilient, to step into the arena, to show up even when we’re scared, and to keep trying despite numerous falls.

These needs include autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Take a few seconds to let these three words sink in, and recall the moments when in an effort to “fit in”, to feel accepted, to feel a part of the group, you’ve let go of your uniqueness. In essence, to enhance one need you’ve actively disengaged from another. I know that you feel the inner twinge that goes along with relinquishing what’s true to your core self though. Moving closer to one need does not demand that you leave the others behind. In fact, what we call those individuals who can intentionally create experiences in which they are both proactively indulging their desires to achieve uniqueness and authenticity, and demonstrate their core talents, virtues, and values outside of whether they are congruent with those of others and simultaneously dive into activities that connect, require empathy, and relate on a deeper level to others even if their views are discrepant, is differentiation. In other words, a person who is differentiated has the ability to  maintain a solid sense of self (i.e. non-negotiable values) within situations of stress and among relationships. Someone who lacks differentiation falls apart or becomes fractured when there is disagreement or when others feel or think in contradicting ways. But you can be so tied into who you are right now, feeling compelled to protect your self as a consequence of perceiving that a difference of opinion means you are “wrong”, that the ability to remain objective and unemotional disappears. Increasing differentiation requires a We do not see things as they are...defining of your principles and values– what makes you, you. Don’t mistake this, however, for “finding” a way and then rigidly clinging to it “because it’s who you are.” A rigidly differentiated person is inflexible, unyielding, and unwilling to explore how or why others believe differently. You might actually, through discovery, realize that what you’ve believed no longer resonates with you anymore, and through a process of filtering, you may redefine your principles or beliefs or “refine” them. Can you imagine how your life would change if you didn’t actively avoid others who might disagree with you?

In my final year of graduate school I wrote my thesis on differentiation and the first year of marriage. Care to guess why I was compelled to research this topic? I had never experience more internal and external conflict than during those 12 months after being married, and I needed to understand what was happening for me. What was this incoherent, chaotic, messy, craziness that had infiltrated what felt like every fiber of…me? I challenged myself during the next year to engage and disengage in new and often uncomfortable ways. I walked into the swamp land of mucky emotion, of tumultuous disagreements, and of quicksand-like consumption, and the whole time I actively pursued to discern what was mine and what was his and how I was well-practiced in entangling the two to the point that my heart-felt ripped to shreds. (Keep in mind that this feeling can be quite normal in relationships– you’re so close to a person that of course you’re going to feel a tremendous amount of emotion. But there is a very salient difference between a fractured, splintered, torn to pieces, completely disintegrated heart and one that has broken but is still open).

In my first year of marriage I was far, far from understanding myself or from understanding the foundation of who I was and how to weave my intricacies into the fabric of another life that I was to share. I had entered into the relationship initially because I was scared and uncertain and, just like I At any given moment...described at the beginning, desiring security and certainly. Well, I found it. This man not only had his life, but mine also, planned out for the next 50 years. As I embarked on the process of dissecting the words of my story– the one I had been telling, the one that had been told to me, the one I was currently writing, and the one I wanted to write–the lens I was looking through became clearer, the fog seemed to dissipate, and I experienced a sense of clarity. Comfortable? Not even close. But something in my spirit was recaptured despite it.

Brene Brown is the first to admit, and in doing so, reveals tremendous vulnerability, that she “doesn’t do vulnerability.” She has spent decades researching it, and still finds herself activity avoiding it. In her TED talk, she explains how it is not in her nature, but how the data she has collected on human connection, vulnerability, and shame has changed the way she “lives, loves, works, and parents.” I would argue that it’s not that she doesn’t do vulnerability– she recognizes and has shown through her research that we can’t avoid it  because it’s there, inherently, and we know when it’s there because we feel it–it’s that she doesn’t do it as well as she’d like to. Vulnerability is that “deer in the headlights”, “oh shit”, “what do I say?”, “how do I respond?”, “I can’t believe that just happened…I just want to hide” feeling.   You know it. We have all experienced it. So as Brene explains, it’s part of humanity. But many of us are great at– or think we’re helping ourselves by– numbing it. In my first year of marriage and in the years that preceded it, I numbed vulnerability, and in turn, anesthetized my heart.

In his inspiring book entitled Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker Palmer describes his experience of feeling “like a displaced person in my own land.” I recall vividly describing to a friend post-divorce how I had lost my self in the marriage and the immense and liberating grief and freedom I experienced when I listened to my heart and made the decision to move out of the land I had built with this person and set off on a  new, growth-oriented journey that would undoubtedly present more obstacles and scary detours, but opportunities that I would gladly unveil. I grieved for what I had lost and the time I had spent closing doors on my heart for four years, and I grieved out of gratitude for finally seeing my power to be courageous enough to open every door from that point forward. I don’t believe now that I had “lost” my self.  I believe that I’d not done the work to ever “find” my self in the first place.

Courage is what is takes...Palmer reminds his readers in the prelude of his book, after unabashedly yet carefully and humbly explaining his tendency toward depression and using his experience to create a meaningful foundation for describing how to nurture the essence of life, that the word heart stems from the Latin root cor, where the word courage comes from. When I read this the first time I had to pause. The familiar heavy, pressing intensity of emotion I feel in my chest when tears are planning their escape cued me to pay attention. “Listen,” my body reminded. Cor— when spoken, is the sound of me– the name my mom has called me since I was a little girl. Cor, as Palmer defines it, is where our emotions, intellect, intuition, intelligence, and the physical, relational, experiential, and imaginative aspects and centers of our lives converge to create the cores of who we are.  I had realized that my core was expanding. And retraction no longer seemed like a viable option if I was to engage in the “finding” of me. Even after the friend I had confided in said she no longer wanted to associate with me, the doors didn’t close. Comfortable? Not even close. And I still find myself wounded from what at the time I perceived as a rejection. But I was not fractured.

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I am SOMEBODY! And yet I’m nobody….

14 Jun

Before you email, rush in to save me, and assume I must be experiencing a mid-30’s existential crisis (my birthday is in August and thankfully, I’ll only be 34), think first about your automatic need to reassure me, relieve me of the doubt it appears I’m feeling, and to halt the Kori Crazy-Talk.

What’s that about?!

At some point it seems most of us decided that we’re not supposed to feel helpless, lost, confused, even unimportant, miniscule, tiny. Meaningless….

“Okay, okay already!!”

Yet we do. We feel this stuff. We feel it a lot.

So many of us are walking around like zombies asking “Why?”

“Where is God if I feel so empty, so miserable?”

“What is there in this life for me?”

But what do you do when you notice this questioning, this longing?

You probably push, you scream, and then you hide.

You cover your face, you put on a mask, you go grab the alcohol, you go stuff your face with food you don’t taste, or you pop the pills “you saved for a rainy day…”

Fraud.

Before you get mad at me for being negative and pessimistic, consider how true my statements are and then realize that you just don’t want to hear the truth.

Pedaling this morning on the recumbent bike I noticed halfway through my workout a frenzied surge of energy. Punching the “mode” button a few times to navigate to the “speed”  indicator, sure enough it was registering almost 15 mph faster and at a higher resistance! I had just taken a look again at the photos I’d taken earlier. (As you know I’m preparing for a contest and as it gets closer I am in touch daily with my coach to ensure I’m on the right track). I saw the muscle striations. I saw the full, hard, roundness of my quads and shoulders. I looked crisp. And I got a surge of adrenaline as I imagined standing on the stage in my new suit next to the other competitors, out-posing them, flexing with precision, and hearing nothing but “WIN, WIN, WIN” in my head. I texted my coach- Let’s DO THIS!!

In the next instant I went through a wave of  sinister laughing bouncing from the edges of my skull to  hearing, “you do realize that you’re one in millions of people on the planet…a speck…a nobody…”

I was struck by the profundity of dichotomous emotion. From elated to vacuous, I came full circle and was abrasively reminded of life’s ebb and flow. How tumultuous the depth of emotion we can experience may feel, and yet how fleeting those emotions can be. And what gets an individual to the point which he can face his vulnerability, his raw, wounded,  incomprehensible, and unacceptable self?

“The sun will shine again, huh?” a client said definitively but with the quick upturned tone familiar when a question is asked. Over the phone I could see the tiny lines in the corners of her mouth as she smiled softly.We were discussing my experience this morning and how the circumstances of her life over the last month had registered similar notes.

And another who is wrestling with the grief he is traversing after his father died, said to me, “I’m not sure how long this process is supposed to last, but I know I need to be moving on with my life.” His statement demonstrating his misinformed belief that he could only do one or the other and that the grief needed to have a finite stopping point. I pointed out that he had been laughing a minute earlier and inquired of whether his choice to work with me wasn’t a good enough indicator of his effort toward “moving on.” His father’s death was obviously bringing up uncomfortable emotions, a sense of something missing, a “void” he called it, and as many deaths do, a sense of his own impermanence.

We’re like rivers really. Always flowing. We feel. We feel deeply. And we can acknowledge the importance of those feelings, or we can live like prisoners behind them, giving them the power to cage us and be the guides through the narrow channels of life that offer far less excruciatingly beautiful glimpses of transformative confidence and  daunting frigidity. But we must also realize that they are not all we are.

As somebody I make a difference, I have meaning, I am important, I am connected to the greater good.

As nobody I can recognize my insignificance and the futility which exists in trying so hard to be what I’m not, and in turn expect to reach the depths of both and honor their presence.

Even as I prepare to click “publish” to share this with the world I question 1. ) how my goal of winning a competition is worth getting excited over and more importantly, how superficial an example to  use to demonstrate the power of emotion; and 2.) how self-doubt could lead me to second-guess whether this blog is even worth sharing. Who am I to believe I can touch someone’s life merely by exposing my ineptitudes and the insights I’ve come about as a pilgrim of my personal journey? But then I recall the people I am drawn to most auspiciously– those who relish in life’s fragility, who are wise because they recognize and embrace their flaws, and who sprinkle their wisdom gained from truly living, in the most humble and yet personally rewarding of ways.

As I send this into cyberspace I breathe and hope that it will touch others.

And if it doesn’t, I remind myself that I’m still okay.

Sometimes there is pain in the present…

17 Jan

I’ve had some amazingly eye-opening sessions with clients lately that it’s been difficult for me to concentrate on much else. What I learn through my interactions with these magnetic, creative individuals gets my brain firing in so many different directions that staying present does not come easy for me. This presence of mind, ironically, is what I often work on teaching. We get so caught up in the frenzied day to day tasks and responsibilities and our emotions that we lose sight of what is in front of us. “Flow” is what we experience when we lose all track of time, when we’re immersed fully in the here and now, and when we are completely centered and focused. This takes presence, and without a method of working toward it, we can succumb to chronic anxiety, loneliness, worry, and lack of productivity. My flow is thwarted when I’ve got a million thoughts or ideas floating around in my brain that I do not make the time to get out. I crash and burn when I do not act intentionally and allow barriers and distortions to creep in and convince me that I’m incapable. When I do tune in  to the walls that can be built because I’m not paying attention to the present, it can be painful and ugly, but that pain can be useful for me as I rebuild what often turns into a masterpiece- confidence, assertiveness, empowerment, meaning, purpose, and flow. This pain in the present makes me pause and reminds me that I can use every bit of my being to paint my life exactly as I want it to be.

I want to share with you another inspiring story, given to me today by a beautiful friend of mine. Her email to me and my response will give you hope and courage.

” I had a rough weekend. i intentionally planned to do nothing all weekend in hopes to rest and recoup, which i did, but then i was FLOODED with all sorts of discomforting emotions I haven’t felt in a long time.
At the end of it all, I was lonely. I reflected on my relationships, past and present, and was truly saddened by the fact many of my relationships no longer hold value. I know a huge part of growing is letting go. I also know once Ido let go,I will make space for new meaningful relationships. 
So after two days of darkness and tummy aches from eating everything in sight… I put my big girl panties on, cooked my meals for the next two days, went to the gym this morning, and came to work! It just so happens everyone in the office is in a horrible mood. So it’s quiet and super tense.. but as you have taught me, this means nothing about me. No one can make me feel anything.
I still feel sad and disappointed from this weekend, but strong enough not to self-destruct.”

My response: I must have had a feeling you were in need of a little “pick-me-up.”
Sometimes when we let ourselves relax and sink into just “being” without paying attention to all the “stuff” we fill our minds and lives with, that is when we get to actually experience the feelings that have been there but we’ve not been realizing.

Flooded is such a vivid word. I imagine a dam breaking. But I come back to what it COULD look like if we allowed a slow trickle/stream of those energies to come in periodically so we’re not getting to the place where they almost feel as if we’re being drowned by them.

(I respond here to a comment that she made about getting strength from certain friends). So much of our strength occurs because we want to be and do well for other people… Not just ourselves. Knowing that others care about us and believe in us can empower us to make decisions we wouldn’t otherwise and consider ourselves through lenses we’d not typically put on. We can operate with such blinders on until others show us the light and our truth. What has always been in us may not be fully realized until it is revealed by a trusted friend or team of confidantes.

It’s okay to feel lonely. It’s okay to want and yearn for more valuable relationships in your life. Turning that loneliness into intention and then into action is where you get to move next, if it’s truly important to you. Remembering too though that loneliness is constantly in flux and impermanent is key to not getting sucked under by it.

 

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