Why is falling in love scary? Why do people often shut down in the face of intimacy? Because of an intense fear of vulnerability. Dr. Brene Brown, Professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, explains this phenomenon: “Vacillating between I am here and I love you…and I'm going to reveal my innermost to you…and I am scared to death that you’ll reject me.” Ironically, the vulnerability we try desperately to avoid may be the key to a successful relationship. Research shows that the quality that makes a relationship last is its degree of affection and affection implies vulnerability.
In my previous post,
I described the critical health impact of social connections and
relationships. Brown, an expert on social connection, conducted
thousands of interviews to discover the root of deep social connection. A
thorough analysis of the data revealed what it was: vulnerability.
Vulnerability here does not mean being weak or submissive. To the
contrary, it implies the courage to be yourself. It involves
uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.
Although we may try to run from vulnerability, it is an
inevitable part of social relationships. Even outside of romance,
vulnerability is something we encounter frequently: calling someone who
has just lost a child, asking a friend for help, taking responsibility
for something that went wrong at work, confronting a family member about
their behavior, or sitting by the bedside of a friend with a terminal
illness. Opportunities for vulnerability present themselves to us every
day, the question is whether we will take them.
Why do we fear
vulnerability? We are afraid that if someone finds out who we really
are, they will reject us. While we may try to appear perfect, strong or
intelligent in order to connect with others in actual fact pretense
often has the opposite effect intended. Research by Paula Niedenthal
shows that we resonate too deeply with one another not to perceive
inauthenticity. We even register inauthenticity in our bodies. A study
by James Gross
shows that when we are inauthentic and try to hide our feelings, others
respond physiologically (a rise in blood pressure). This physiological
response may explain our discomfort around inauthentic or “fake” people.
the other hand, when people stick to the truth (including avoiding
little white lies), not only does their well-being increase but their
relationships improve, recent research suggests. Another recent study
indicates that verbally expressing our feelings exactly as they are may
help us overcome emotions faster. When we allow ourselves to be
completely open and vulnerable, we benefit, our relationships improve,
and we may even become more attractive. "We are actually drawn to people
who are real and down-to-earth,” says Brown. "We love authenticity and
we know that life is messy and imperfect.” Why do we love children so
much? Why are we drawn to people who act themselves? Because we feel an
intrinsic comfort in the presence of authenticity. Moreover, someone who
is real and and vulnerable gives us the space and permission to be the
Yes, vulnerability can lead to hurt. Brown explains that
women often tell men that they want their partner to be vulnerable and
to share their feelings but then recoil in disgust when men do. When
women share their feelings, men often feel frustrated or powerless and
want to find a fixed and pragmatic solution. Yet is it worth walking
through fear and vulnerability to experience social connection?
Absolutely. “Show me a man who can listen to a woman and not try to fix
her problem but rather just listen to her and be there for her, show me a
woman who can sit with a man who shares this vulnerability and still
love him the way he is, and I'll show you a man and woman who are
courageous and have done their work," says Brown. "It's about intention –
‘Can this be the safest place that we have: with each other, you can be
afraid with me and I can be afraid with you."
To know that you
are seen and loved for who you are and to perceive someone else in all
of their vulnerability and love them as they are may just be one of
life’s most fulfilling experiences. Next time you feel yourself close up
in fear in a romantic relationship
or otherwise, notice if you can make the choice to be courageous. Take a
risk and embrace vulnerability. To quote the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson:
'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.'
(In Memoriam:27, 1850)
[Source : psychologytoday.com]