One of the most difficult things to talk about in therapy that I've noticed with clients and myself is the subject of shame. We either try to avoid it or cover it up with another emotion like anger, resentment, or sadness. If we go back to our earlier years in childhood, shame is the part of us that was rejected by our caregivers when we were children. It’s the part of us that we buried, covered up, and hid in order to be loved by our caregivers. “Wipe that smile off your face.” “What are you crying about?” “Boys don’t cry.” “What’s the matter with you? Pull yourself together?” “Can’t you do better than that?” Even with the most loving caregivers, no one is perfect. However, the golden gem about shame is, in our shame, lives our creativity, our spontaneity, our vitality, our aliveness for life!
Vulnerability is emotional risk, exposure, uncertainty, fuels our daily lives. Vulnerability is to be seen, to be honest. It is the most accurate measurement of courage.
To reach vulnerability, we first have to face our shame. What does it look like when we face our shame in therapy or we know it is close to the surface of our emotional expression? Think about yourself or someone you have witnessed feeling shame … first we have to be aware of it (know it's there), then we have to feel it in our body. It can feel like a rollercoaster ride like you don't know when it's going to stop or land on solid ground. And it’s when we reach the precipice of our vulnerability…there is usually an emotion that comes before it. We cry, cover our face to hide our shame. However, when we are witnessed by another person, like a therapist, during this moment of vulnerability, we are recovering a part of ourself that was taken away as children. I tell clients, the pain (emotional pain or emotional rollercoaster) is worth the payoff! The more we face our shame, the easier it becomes to look at it.
Shame is the resistance to vulnerability. Vulnerability is the gateway to wholeness or whole hearted living.
This is the meaning of shame vs. vulnerability.