How do you perceive a vulnerable person?
In need of help?
The dictionary definition is:
- “exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally”
- (of a person) in need of special care, support, or protection because of age, disability, or risk of abuse or neglect.
It feels, in many ways, like a word with negative connotations.
However, what if vulnerability is an essential part of being human? What if it’s something we all display at times? Something we all have the capacity to be?
How liberating would it be for us all to admit to feeling vulnerable at times?
I was introduced to the poem below by David Whyte recently. As it was read aloud to the group I was participating in I felt a tear trickling down my cheek.
Usually I would quickly wipe it away. Ashamed. Embarrassed.
Not wanting to appear too emotional.
But as this was a mindfulness session I decided to resist the urge to wipe the tear away and just sit with it. Take the time to be curious about the feeling of it rolling down my face. Notice the physical sensations. Know that ‘thoughts are not facts’ and just because I felt like I was drawing attention to myself, recognise that, in all likelihood, nobody had probably noticed my upset anyway.
I used the experience as a mini mindfulness practice.
VULNERABILITY by David Whyte
is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without,
vulnerability is not a choice,
vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding under-current of our natural state.
To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature, the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to be something we are not and most especially, to close off our understanding of the grief of others.
More seriously, refusing our vulnerability we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilise the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.
To have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances, is one of the privileges and the prime conceits of being human and especially of being youthfully human, but a privilege that must be surrendered with the same youth, with ill health, with accident, with the loss of loved ones who do not share our untouchable powers;
powers eventually and most emphatically given up, as we approach our last breath.
The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance,
our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant, and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.