Connection = Safety + Vulnerability

Chief Seattle“”We did not weave the web of life; we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”

          ~ Chief Seattle

Interdependence is a universal need. Connection, acceptance, being heard, community, respect, support, empathy, love. These are all needs which require other people to fulfill. But when we have been hurt in the past it can be hard to allow ourselves to connect with these needs. Dependence can be scary.
it requires vulnerability.

My first association with the word vulnerability is that of weakness. And when I think of dependence, I think of neediness. Needing other people. Still, I am also experiencing more and more in my life, that when I practice vulnerable honesty, people often react by wanting to contribute to me. I get more support that way than when I muddle on by myself because asking for help is so scary.

At some point in my life I acquired the limiting belief that its better not to ask for help. As a young child I ran away from home to the other side of town where my father lived with his new wife. But he told me I could not live with him and brought me back home to my mother. Not only did I not get the help I needed, I now had to deal with shame and rejection on top of that. So this is where my story began that “seeking support is asking for trouble”. This story can be heard most loudly when I am feeling stressed and a bit shaky. I have no problem asking for help finding the way when my navigation fails me (unlike my husband 😉 ). But when I am feeling emotional and in need of mental support it gets tricky for me. “You have to be strong, don’t be wuss, your kids need you.”, “Put your chin up and do it alone, everybody is too busy for you.”, “Nobody wants to hear your sob stories, empathy will get you nothing anyway.”, “Shouldn’t you be able to self-connect on your own by now?”. And I must have a million other varieties of jackals whenever this belief manifests itself. And this is why, at the moments that I need it the most, I often don’t ask for empathy or find self compassion.

What helps me break this protective shield is by taking care of my need for safety. Connection can only exist where there is vulnerability and in order to be vulnerable, we need safety. Connection = Safety + Vulnerability. When I am remind myself of this formula, the holy trinity of compassion, I often experience an “Oh right!” moment and remember that I have many strategies available to me to create safety. Safety for me is: trust that the other person can hold space for my story without judgment or offering solutions. So it helps me to know that the person I open up to has been trained in the art of compassionate listening. And I want to trust that the other also has space to listen to my story. I care for this by honestly expressing that I feel anxious about asking time and space for myself and make a request for the other to check with themselves if they truly feel a “Full Yes” to listen to me. Or I can find another person who is willing to listen to me. Alternatively I can choose to shre my story in a context where I know that everybody is willing to connect with vulnerability and safety. Like in my practice group or during a training or workshop. Or I will book a private session, because it is easier for me to ask time for myself when I am able to pay for it. If I have space to listen to the other I can also offer to contribute to the other with empathy instead of money and become empathy buddies.

In a few days I am going on a camping trip with my family. The planning, packing, seeking consensus about stuff is already making me stressed. And in that I feel that interdependence again. Especially in love relationships I find it very scary to be vulnerable. But during a holiday is exactly when I need my husband to keep our family life harmonious and loving. More so than when I am alone with my boys like most of the working week in any case. And my empathy buddies will not be as available. So I will have plenty of opportunity to practice vulnerability. To seek support within my family, to be heard, find connection, work on trust. I am looking forward to it with a bit of nervousness. And with hope and excitement.

 
Tip:
This week, ask yourself what interdependence means to you. How do you fulfill your need for connection, acceptance, being heard, support and empathy?

I am curious to hear what you discover. How do these needs play out in your daily life? Do you have questions for me or would you like to share if and how my blog touches you? I would love to hear from you in the comment section below (⇓)!