The Vulnerability of Truth

The Vulnerability of Truth

Posted on January 22, 2021

The Vulnerability of Truth
By Stephanie Kato

We believe in the power of “speaking one’s truth”. We encourage each other and proclaim how empowering it feels. I think most of us agree that speaking the truth is a good idea and although it is a simple concept, in reality it can be very complicated for many people.

What is required to fully speak our truth and how often do we actually do so?

Being able to speak our truth requires us to be self-aware on many different levels. Without self-awareness, we end up leading our conversations with defensiveness based in fear. Expressing truth to ourselves first, and then to one another requires us to choose the discomfort of vulnerability. We take an emotional risk when we share our truth with someone because once we state our beliefs, we open ourselves to potential anger, judgment, attack, disbelief, denial, disagreements, and abandonment. Without knowing ourselves to be worthy regardless of others’ opinions, it may feel too scary to stand up for ourselves and our beliefs. Many people avoid full self-expression out of basic self-preservation. We are then left with two options: stay quiet to protect ourselves, or speak up and risk rejection and ostracization. In many ways humans are not that different from the animal kingdom. Simply put, there is safety and strength in numbers. Built into our DNA this innate programming to self-protect comes into play with regard to truth telling. This is why it is so vital to practice self-love and self-compassion. Rarely do we consider how we are hardwired when faced with an emotional trigger. If we chastise ourselves as weak or cowardly because we didn’t speak up, we miss the opportunity to appreciate the range of potential repercussions we are faced with. To further complicate matters, let’s add the complex dynamics of our childhoods to the mix along with past relationship experiences of heartbreak and emotional pain, and we begin to understand why speaking our truth is no easy task.

The courage to speak up begins with an intention:

“What is my goal: do I want to stay in conflict (ego)

or do I want to encourage resolution (heart)?”

To help you learn how to work with yourself I’ve created a fictitious couple who are having some issues in their relationship. Below I breakdown how they find themselves in the middle of conflict when they remain emotionally unaware vs. adopting a successful skillset and become master communicators. (What’s the key? You guessed it…Vulnerability!) Let’s start with –

Conflict instigated by self-unawareness:

In this example, both Mary and Tom grew up without the type of love they needed from their parents[1]. They are in a love relationship and although there is love between them, Mary feels triggered much of the time. She wants something from Tom that she can’t seem to attain and gets upset with him. Tom ends up feeling attacked and discouraged and shuts down emotionally to protect himself. The more Tom withdraws to protect himself, the more insecure Mary feels and expresses anger. Thus, the cycle begins…

Perception

When Mary cannot get her needs met by Tom, she perceives this means something is wrong with her (issues of worthiness) and that he doesn’t really care about her. If he did, he would give her what she needs, right? Tom perceives Mary’s disappointment as not being able to do anything right and this makes him feel like something is wrong with him (issues of worthiness). So for both of them, the insecure self-esteem issues created in their childhoods are validated in what they perceive as truth in their relationship.

Perspective

Mary’s perception creates victim mentality within her. She reasons that since Tom knows about her childhood, he should just know how to help her. Instead she sees his withholding as intentional and this perspective makes her feel alone and sad. Tom feels defeated and safer when he withdraws into himself. Both perspectives keep the couple from getting their needs met.

Unconscious unresolved issues

Neither Mary nor Tom have learned how to sit with the discomfort of their feelings or recognize the profound and lasting effect of how being disappointed by their parents created insecurities and feelings of being unworthy and unlovable in their relationship. When individuals avoid healing internal trauma and emotional pain, they never learn how to re-parent the vulnerable parts of themselves and instead look to fill what is missing within themselves through outside sources, like a love partner. This perspective puts a lot of pressure on both the partner and the relationship. The only one who can truly heal the individual is the individual themself. Without taking responsibility for the healing that belongs to us and us alone, we perpetuate victim mentality and this leads to misery and additional emotional pain.

Conflict

Without invaluable internal and healthy awareness, Mary and Tom fight each other and effectively push each other further away. They use untruths such as: “You don’t love me”; “I need to keep my heart closed to you”; “If you loved me you would _________”. Ironically, they both want the same thing: to feel safe, loved, and accepted by the other person. The only way we know how to communicate is what we were taught through examples modeled within the original family dynamic. If communication was not healthy, safe or open, most children grow up into adults who have limited communication skills. This skillset is learned so we must do whatever we can to learn how to find the courage and allow vulnerable feelings that progress into speaking our vulnerable truths. .

Resolution inspired by self-awareness:

Now let’s look at this same scenario but this time Mary and Tom have both learned how to allow themselves to feel vulnerable through healing past trauma and embracing self-love, self-kindness and self-compassion.

 

Perception

Mary is still trying to get what she needs from Tom. Because she has healed her past childhood trauma, she doesn’t personalize his inability to give her what she needs. She also doesn’t assume that the way she perceives his intentions are accurate. In other words, she takes responsibility for potentially judging him inaccurately and offers compassionate and loving communication through sharing her vulnerable feelings. When Mary approaches Tom in this way, he feels safe to explore his feelings and this allows him to review his own perceptions about himself and discover why he hasn’t been able to meet Mary’s needs.

Perspective

Since Mary doesn’t attack Tom, he feels safe to share with her his own childhood experiences of his mother yelling at his dad constantly, and how he learned to cope by withdrawing within himself. This new information helps Mary shift her perspective such that when Tom retreats after she yells at him, it is actually an old coping mechanism that has nothing to do with her (other than she is triggering him with her behavior). Also, this new perspective helps Tom realize that he had been reacting to Mary from a young, wounded place that has no validity in his adult relationship (providing him an opportunity to vulnerably share how it hurts him when she yells at him).

Consciously resolved issues

The only way they could both reach this new understanding was through a willingness to allow the vulnerability of truth; not just with speaking their truths but also by feeling safe enough with each other to allow them to explore past hurts that were being mirrored in their relationship. This is how our love relationships – that embrace vulnerability – can serve to help us heal old traumas. The only way we can achieve this is through compassionate understanding and unconditional love – first within ourselves and then with each other.

Resolution

I have a saying “What seems like a disaster is actually a blessing”. Every relationship (not just love relationships) provides us the opportunity to see the gift in conflict. It’s the relationship equivalent of the oyster creating a pearl from a grain of sand. If both parties remain committed to unconditional love at all costs, they can create a safe space for each other to speak their truths.

What would they say to each other by allowing the vulnerability of truth? “I feel unworthy of being loved the way I want to be”; “I’m scared that my not getting what I need from you means something is wrong with me”; “I’m scared that if you really know me, you will leave me”; “ I feel like I have no other option than to protect myself, and hide when I feel attacked by you”; “If I could get the love from you that I didn’t get growing up, I will finally be okay”.

Obviously our fictitious couple is only one example but one that might speak to many people. For our relationships to be loving and joyful, continuously working on healing our internal emotional issues is key. Without a concerted effort to become intimately acquainted with who we believe we are, we cannot move forward into sustainable, healthy relationships and successful conflict resolution. Discovering how to lead with truth will benefit every aspect of your life and every single one of your relationships: family, love, friendships, and business.

How to allow vulnerable truths in relationships?

·     Reduce conflict: see it as a conversation, not a confrontation.

·     Write down your own truths in a journal. The only reason we have trouble speaking our truth with others is because we avoid the vulnerability of admitting it to ourselves first.

·     Trust that your partner loves you and desires a healthy and happy relationship with you.

·     Accept differences and disagreements as a part of life and relationships. No two people are identically the same. Think of how boring that would be!

·     One of the most valuable pieces of advice I ever read was from Stephen Covey “Seek first to understand”. Allow this to be your mantra. With love and compassion, tell your partner how you felt when they said or did something and verify if that was their intention. For example “I felt judged when you said ___________, is this what you meant?” Give your partner the chance to clarify their intention before you react or assume.

[1] I do not judge any parents with this example. Every person has suffered in some way in their life and the family dynamics are based on people being (understandably) imperfectly human and fallible.

Stay in your hearts with love, dear ones!

 

 

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