The Puzzle of Vulnerability

One reader arrived at my blog by typing in, “Why can’t people talk honestly and be truthful about themselves?” As a culture we are at a high water mark of avoidance and deflection – We punish and ignore people when they’re honest. I’ve lost clients because I’ve been honest. I believe most couples are in trouble because they’ve lost the ability to be honest with each other. What disconcerted me most about living in suburbia instead of in the city was the lack of conversation that truly revealed anything. I believe when people are authentic, they are often dismissed.

Think how rare it is to receive an email of apology from anyone. People often seem to have a need to be right. When was the last time you gave someone an apology?

Facebook is a way to appear to be connected without any real risk. People text or ignore texts as a way to end a relationship or to deal with anger. People puff themselves up with anger and feel entitled to dump and then refuse to continue with any kind of honest, problem solving discussion. There is an astonishing lack of sharing or ability to reveal honest feelings. The cultural norm is to deal with the surfaces, as if that’s enough. Avoiding and deflecting has become an art form that everyone is an expert at.

It’s hard work to be vulnerable and share what’s truly in your heart. It’s what I spend my days nudging people towards. It can be heart wrenching to hear the things that people have stored away silently and swallowed: “I stopped having sex because I stopped loving you,” and, “I asked you to be part of a threesome because I got bored,” or, “I blame you for our children being spoiled.” or, or, or all that has been stashed resentfully.

I worry about a world where people seem so easily disconnected and have no idea how to begin to talk about difficult things. If we don’t share, then we can’t make ourselves understood. Authenticity requires a willingness to understand our own dark sides and to not be so sucker-punched surprised by the dark sides of others. We all got them and we all have a lot to learn from them. A best friend can’t just be someone who always agrees with you. Agreement without the honesty of differences and challenges is a house of cards waiting to collapse.

There are even the rare television shows that are special because of the honest encounters over differences. The coach and his wife, from Friday Night Lights that will be returning in January 2010. Rent Battlestar Gallactica from Netflix and watch the President dying of cancer confront Captain Obama about leaving his beloved ship because it is in its death throes. Modern Family is a delightful new comedy where the characters deal with their differences.

I spend an enormous amount of time detecting deeper feelings and thoughts, then helping people reveal themselves and be more vulnerable with the people they love. It is time well spent. It is such a waste of time to hide out and thrive only on defensiveness and the fragile demand to be right. Find the courage to be vulnerable and authentic and there will be more depth to your life and relationships. Stop hiding out in the ease of avoiding through technology.

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