The Importance of Vulnerability – Free Ebook

There are aspects to all of us that, if they were exposed to a harsh or unsympathetic critic, would result in severe humiliation and mockery. From close up, we are, none of us, reliably impressive. We get agitated, fretful, cantankerous and panicky. Under the pressure of events, we shout, slam doors and let out screams (or wails). We have episodes of absurd clumsiness, we bump into doors, trip and drop things down our front. We’re worried pretty much all the time: about how others see us, about where our careers are going, and about everything important that we have forgotten to do in our lives. We long for love, but are unthinking and insensitive around those close to us. We are gauche in our efforts to seduce and pitiful in our requests for attention. Our bodies have a range of shameful habits and vulnerabilities. We are, from certain angles, truly embarrassing propositions. All this we struggle to hide. The inner idiot is carefully monitored and ruthlessly gagged. We have learnt from our earliest years that the only priority around vulnerability is to disguise it completely. We strive remorselessly to look composed, to erase the evidence of our silliness and to try to appear a great deal more ‘normal’ than we know we are. We are understandably very focused on the downsides of vulnerability. What is far less well-recognised is vulnerability’s occasional very significant and profound upsides. There are moments when the revelation of weakness, far from being a catastrophe, is the only possible route to connection and respect. At points we may dare to explain, with rare frankness, that we are afraid, that we are sometimes bad and that we have done many silly things. And rather than appalling our companions, these revelations may serve to endear us to them, humanising us in their eyes, and letting them feel that their own vulnerabilities have echoes in the lives of others. Together, we realise that the definition of what is normal has missed out on key aspects of our mutual reality. In other words, vulnerability can be a bedrock of friendship, friendship properly understood not just, or primarily, as a process of admiration but as an exchange of sympathy and consolation for the troublesome business of being alive. There can, of course, be unfortunate ways of handling vulnerability: when we do so in the form of an aggressive demand that others rescue us, or when our frailties lack boundaries, or when we are close to rage and hysteria rather than melancholy and grief. Good vulnerability doesn’t expect another person to solve our difficulties; we let them see a tricky part of who we are, simply in the hope that they will be emboldened to feel more at ease with their own, less dignified sides. Good vulnerability is fundamentally generous: it takes the first step at disclosure so as to render it safe for others to unburden themselves and disclose something of their hidden selves in turn. It is a gift in the form of a risk taken for someone else. Furthermore, displays of vulnerability have a curious way of signalling that we are, despite the embarrassing avowals, far from fundamentally ridiculous or pitiful. We are, rather, strong enough to be weak; to let our silliness, our idiocy, our anger and our sadness show, confident that these do not have to be the final verdicts on who we are. We proceed with a bold sense that despite the lack of surface evidence, everyone is in the end as wounded, aggrieved, worried and damaged as we are and that we are not therefore, through our disclosures, casting ourselves out of the clan for good: we are simply reconfirming our essential membership of the human race. It is something of a minor tragedy that we should spend so much of our lives striving to hide our weakness when it is in fact only upon the dignified sharing of vulnerability that true friendship and love can arise. We love bringing you these films. If you want to help us to keep bringing you thoughtful content, please consider supporting us by visiting our shop at the link on your screen now.

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