Being Vulnerable

25 Apr

The video is Brene Brown, speaking on vulnerability.  

Being open to feelings creates vulnerability.  

She talks about “foreboding joy.”  i hear it from my clients, “Sure, i feel good for a little while, but i can’t enjoy it.  i know it won’t last.  Something bad is going to happen.”

And i have to laugh a little bit, because of course it will.  We don’t get to stay in “feel good” mode forever, life goes on.

So Ms. Brown goes on to talk about “numbing,” which is what i talk about all the time with my clients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Numbing is a way to avoid the things we don’t want to think about, avoid the feelings we don’t want to feel.

My clients say, “Well of course i avoid them, why would i want to remember those feelings?  Feel them again?  Are you crazy?”

And Ms. Brown says the same things i say to my clients, that the cost of numbing all those feelings is the loss of joy.  When we put our feelings in a box and try to keep it locked,  joy and compassion and contentment and love and all the pleasant feelings get locked up too.

i think of the things she talks about as reactions to having experienced trauma.  She talks about it as a national phenomenon.  She says that as a nation we’re all doing it ~ numbing with alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, staying busy, and so on.   Once she says it, i know she’s right.

i’m doing it when i don’t want to get my hopes up about meeting somebody.  When i practice that superstitious kind of “not expecting good things” so i don’t “jinx myself.”  Really, it’s an effort to avoid being vulnerable to getting hurt.  

i’ve noticed that youall call me on it every time i do it.  Someone makes a comment to remind me to relax and breathe, to experience the feelings, to go with the flow.

So does BDSM help us stay in touch with our feelings?  Help us not be numb?   Or does it help us avoid our every day mundane lives?  

It seems like there is tremendous vulnerability in being submissive.  We purposely walk into situations that may trigger tremendous emotional pain.  In fact, we choose pain.  When and how it comes is not our choice, so we are not able to protect ourselves by being prepared for it.

How does it work for dominants?  Are they walking into vulnerability too?  

i think i have a lot of thoughts on this, and not enough time to sort through them today.  

Ms. Brown says there are two ways not to numb out.  

                             ~~Practice gratitude.   

                             ~~Honor what’s ordinary.  

As i go through my day, i’ll try to keep those things in mind.

i think “to honor what’s ordinary” is to be mindful.  To feel and experience each moment, as much as possible.  To do one thing at a time, with all my focus.   To do it non-judgmentally, without criticizing myself all day long.  

The gratitude part is easier.  Starting with youall.  i’m so grateful for each of you.   Just knowing that people are interested in reading my story is a powerful affirmation.  When you comment, give me feedback and support, or challenge my ideas, it’s a gift of great value.

The hardest thing for me, in this vulnerability realm, is feeling incompetent.  That triggers a desire to numb stronger than just about anything.  

O ~ wait ~ for me, feeling incompetent is the essence of vulnerability.   


It is though.  And i used to smoke a cigarette when i felt it.  Now ~ lately~ i eat.  And that’s not so helpful either.

So today, i will allow myself to feel fully incompetent.   i will remind myself that no one is “competent enough” to solve the problems of poverty, mental illness, and a warped society.  i will accept that i don’t have to be “competent” all the time.

And i will not eat compulsively.  i will not eat without thinking about it.  i will eat mindfully, savoring each bite.  i will make it an experience, not an exercise in avoidance.


10 Responses to “Being Vulnerable”

  1. Mick April 25, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    reading this made me realize I have to eat breakfast…. something greasy and bad for me sounds particularly good right now, after making a very early drive to the airport.. Mick

    • aisha April 25, 2011 at 7:22 am #

      Dear Mick,

      Go for it. McDonald’s would be good, probably. Or maybe you can find a diner that serves a “good” breakfast. Y’all don’t have grits up there, do you? Too bad.


      And BTW, enjoyed your staff’s post on your blog today.



  2. vanillamom April 25, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    oh wow. so much here i agree with and then that last statement…to accept incompetence.


    and i wonder if that is a D/s thing…for all of 30 seconds. It’s been my whole life. And it starts,as things do, with parental expectations, “honey, you can do better than a B-…”
    And continues with my attempts to master things…sewing, knitting, wallpapering, corner time focused on what He has set me to thinking about….

    And with each new skill i acquire, learning to use a drill, to grow plants from seeds, to suck His cock the way He likes…i push that incompetence away.

    And there are Doms who refuse to accept incompetence, who stress learning and remembering…being mindful, sure, but working double hard at not fucking up again…

    i can’t even accept it in others….i can suggest alternative ways to get to the endpoint, but to accept incompetence ???

    i’m not evolved enough for that.

    LOVE you. Dayam you make me think.


    • aisha April 25, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

      Dear ‘Nilla,

      Really – I’m with you, I’m not embracing incompetence, believe me! And I’m just as into mastering things as you are – different things, maybe, but still…


      It’s stuff to think about.



  3. Donna April 25, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    Great pieces by both Ms Brown and you. It’s an interesting idea that the whole country is seeking to be numb under the illusion that electronic connection is the same experience as speaking in person to a neighbor or that keeping one’s child on two or three sports teams is the better than casually playing catch, tag or hide and seek in the yard.

    BTW, we have grits right here on our kitchen shelf waiting to be cooked. Really wish you hadn’t mentioned them because I consider grits to be the perfect platform for consuming butter. lol


    • aisha April 25, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

      Thanks, Donna.

      Yes, it’s a strange world we live in, isn’t it?

      My sense of you is that you feel the feelings. All of them.

      Grits. I’ve never made them myself, only had them in restaurants. I’m Italian, not southern, ya know… But i like the with lots of butter too. And a splash of milk. Yum.



  4. angel April 25, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    Personally, i find it to be a source of ammusement how many of us s-types are perfectionists (avoiding being vulnerable) or control freaks ourselves….who then practice this thing that is so giving as to surrender to someone with a higher need for control/order/discipline than we have to begin with.
    i have always known, however, that what i’m deep-down afraid of is being totally out of control.
    i equate that with the potential to hurt people.

    (i.e. The fear that if you let me, i would be a Bitch. Its unfounded and not rational but fears seldom are).

    i used to keep gratitude lists daily. Once you do it for months it becomes a part of your inner dialouge, daily, no matter what.

    She made me think, you know, that i do sit with being vulnerable. i sit with shame. Surprising…esp since i think vulnerable, like scars, is beautiful.

    i’m wondering how the day is going for you….

    • aisha April 25, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

      Interesting thoughts, Angel. That makes me wonder then, are we trying to maintain control by handing it to a Dom? Are we just trying to make them responsible for keeping us safe, making us vulnerable only to them?


      And interesting that your fear is of being out of control. I don’t think mine is – I’ll have to think about that. Hmmmm.

      Gratitude lists are wonderful. I try to write thank you notes too – to people I work with, to a store if a salesperson was particularly nice, stuff like that. It is a feel good experience for sure.

      And yes, you do sit with the heavier, less pleasant feelings just fine, or you seem to. I wonder then, is it the feel-good feelings that scare you? (Ooooooh – that was almost a therapy question – feel free to ignore it.)



      • angel April 25, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

        Okay…so …here is where it has always been tricky for me.
        i have gone out of my way to choose Dom’s who would challenge me and, out of necessity, not just want things how i want them.
        i figured, at the end of the day, i would always worry about it being too much about me.
        When, really, i want to loose me—-to find me.

        Clearly, i’ve gone too much to the other extreme at times. The last go round, where i was allowed no joy snapped me toward the middle. i think. i hope.

        i think there is a tremendous power in limiting who really sees you fully. Knows you in all ways. Being vulnerable only to them works as a theory. But in reality, nothing happens in a vacuum.
        That being said…yeah…i really only let select people see me so undone i will rail against them.

        i’m not afraid of loosing control anymore…not in large ways that matter. Its shifted in the last many months.

        The feel-good feelings…feeling excited before something happens is just really brand new for me.
        i have feelings that i don’t even have words for sometimes.
        Its pretty new for me to experience the harder emotions w/o numbing with a variety of methods.
        i’m surprised i can do it.

        Here’s a therpist question:
        What happens next when you are not afraid of your feelings?

  5. Ally April 26, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    I really connected with your post, and I haven’t even watched the video yet. I will though bc I love TED talks. Anyway, I just have a question… Even as an adult, do you think there is still some value in numbing out for a (short?) period of time. I did this a lot as an adolescent, and have done a lot of work trying to stop doing that… it’s gone pretty well so far. Still, there are times where my emotions are so overwhelming that I can’t help it.

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