The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Developing vulnerability

When people come together there will always be many different ideas not only on what is right but also on how this “right” can be expressed or experienced.

There is a good reason for this, it’s lack of experience.

People trying to build that experience imagine how it would look or feel like. It’s a senseful approach helping to figure out, what this experience may be.

As people seek to teach others a skill, a competence, or a way of being, they also try to convey what the experience may be. But this is almost impossible. People rarely have the words to convey how an experience feels or is appreciated. These words only appear after the experience has been experienced once. That’s because the words suddenly start to resonate. Once this is established, the experience and how it is experienced can be discussed. Finding words then becomes a way to shape one’s experience. Until then, words will only be hints that someone may recognize.

This is also the case with vulnerability.

Vulnerability is an experience that requires stepping into the unknown. Being vulnerable thus includes uncertainty about the reactions one will encounter. A psychologically safe environment means an environment in which the person feels secure enough to step into uncertainty. That is people in such an environment trust that their worst fears will not become reality. The environment helps them to be courageous enough to step onto uncertain territory. This also implies that different people in the same group will have a diverging willingness to be vulnerable. There is no uniformity.

Sometimes people will seek to create such a safe environment for themselves. The way they seek to be vulnerable then includes a protection for themselves. It becomes for example visible in the way, that they share something they don’t like about themselves and explain how it is not useful for them. This is vulnerable in the sense that they highlight a detail describing how their performance may not correspond to the group’s expectations. The vulnerability thus is in putting their status at risk.

However, they’ve also made it safe for themselves as they are the ones who established evaluation. The situation they have created is one, where there is a high probability that people will contradict the statement or explain that there is nothing to worry about. A harsh self-judgment makes it difficult for others to add to the harshness. It also frees the person expressing it from the danger that others could express it first.

Seen from this perspective, there is a possibility that the person did not feel secure enough to accept the uncertainty of not knowing or of receiving feedback that doesn’t correspond to their evaluation. It might also be such a habitual behavior that they didn’t realize how it included a protective behavior.

The path to experiencing vulnerability starts with recognizing the existing protection. From there it helps to notice what it is that makes such protection feel necessary. It’s then only, that two options open up. One is to gain a sense of what a safe environment would feel like. The other is to muster the courage that allows to let go of adding the protection.



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