Vulnerability

At today’s Fells and Dales meeting we used a TED talk by Brene Brown to stimulate further discussion about shame and newer discussion on vulnerability.
Vulnerability requires courage to be willing to be emotionally exposed, unsure or seen by another. The reward is the possibility of connectedness and furthermore ‘it is the birth place of creativity,innovation and change’.
There was general agreement that supervision is most effective when supervisor and supervisee are willing to be vulnerable together. In this environment, creative exploration of new territory becomes possible.
The extent to which a counsellor should show vulnerability in a therapy session seemed to be more nuanced. Sharing uncertainty or disclosing our own vulnerable experiences can be a way of connecting. It might also create what Brene Brown calls ‘Me too’ and reduces any client fantasy that the counsellor is infallible. With many clients, our honesty about not knowing where the therapy will go or if it will help is enabling for the client. Others need to feel something of our experience, and steadiness to enable them to feel hope. This lead us to think about clients who have unrealistic hopes – hope to be rescued for example. We identified that ‘learned helplessness’ can be seen as an adaptive behaviour created to avoid change. It is therefore distinct from vulnerability .
We recognised that becoming vulnerable can be excruciatingly painful and even in a safe environment it is natural to be tentative and  reveal oneself in small steps. We discussed some of the faces of our own vulnerabilities – the pain of being seen (and therefore judged), the pain of being unseen and over looked, the feeling when we let people down, of not being good enough.
Shame and vulnerability and guilt inevitably tangle together and fester in secrecy.
‘Guilt expects punishment while shame expects abandonment’. Guilt comes from a cognitive process while shame is embodied. We were cheered by the good news that ‘The antidote to shame is empathy’.

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Vulnerability