27 May Vulnerability in the room
In the therapy room being vulnerable is one of the key aspects of the work between the therapist and the client. Too often clients come in with a surface issue because they’re either unsure of what is troubling them or they want to “test the waters”, meaning they want to see if the therapist would judge them or have a reaction towards what they bring. The real work in therapy starts the moment the client is able to open up and bring “material” into the session. It doesn’t matter if they have a clear story of what’s actually going on. The important aspect of it is that they bring something in, they bring themselves with all their beliefs, values, judgments, assumptions, hurts, disappointments… and the list can go on. In that moment of opening up the therapist has a huge role: to facilitate the process and help the client make sense of what is going on. Now this may sound easy but most of the time it is not. Why? Because we are dealing with emotions, patterns of behavior or vicious cycles that have helped the client cope the best way they could so far, even though some of these patterns have become harmful in the long run. The client is suddenly becoming vulnerable. Being vulnerable is not something we are comfortable with. Society teaches us from a small age that vulnerability is for weak people. That strong people don’t show their weaknesses and never allow themselves to be vulnerable. We learn that is better to be vulnerable by ourselves until we get stronger and we can show ourselves back to the world in the reflection that is accepted by society.
I encourage clients to be vulnerable and accept that part of themselves, however. You don’t have to be sorry for being vulnerable and for feeling hurt by others or situations. We need to own our vulnerabilities and learn from them. We need to allow ourselves to be imperfect and be ok with it. People who judge vulnerability are the ones who are insecure about their own vulnerability and they don’t allow themselves to feel it. They lose a lot by doing this and they hide a part of themselves that makes them human. It’s very interesting how when people are being vulnerable most of us feel the need to either help or protect them. Something inside of us is triggered and we react towards it by trying to offer comfort and support. I wonder… maybe in moments like that we are actually offering comfort to ourselves and not only to the vulnerable person.
You don’t have to be vulnerable with everyone you meet, however. There has to be a connection between you and that person so you can express vulnerability and even when there is such a connection, it’s still hard to do it most of the times. It’s a matter of choice, a leap of faith if I may say so. You don’t know what’s going to happen, you have no idea what reaction you’ll get, but I can tell you it won’t be any of those negative ideas that your mind will think of before you do it.
When you do allow yourself to be vulnerable and feel that, you actually give yourself permission to grow and understand your process. That’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself over and over again, and even though it’s uncomfortable in the beginning, the reward is greater. Trust me! Be brave!