I’ve been really into self-help books lately. I’ve picked up a few, including You Are Awesome by Neil Pasricha and Dare to Lead by Brene Brown. I always thought they were a bit corny. But boy, oh boy, was I wrong.
In the two books I have read, I have learned more about my emotional capacity and resiliency than I think I ever have. Even therapy, which has been a lot about emotional identification and processing, hasn’t really hit me the way that these books have. There is something about the written word. As an author, I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but my kinds of stories are different. They allow people to escape to another galaxy, temporarily leaving their thoughts and worries behind as they dive into someone else’s world. These self-help books do the exact opposite. They bring you into your head and challenge you to dig deep.
One thing I’ve picked up on is my ability to rumble with vulnerability (thanks for the term, Brene). Rumbling with vulnerability is your willingness and ability to sit with vulnerability and be open to it. There are two levels two it. The first is to rumble with yourself, and the second is to do it with others. I honestly couldn’t tell you which is more uncomfortable for me.
First, rumbling with yourself sounds challenging because it means looking inside yourself and picking out what makes you uncomfortable about your emotions. If you aren’t someone who has done a lot of emotion processing, this could be hard for two reasons. One, it’s uncomfortable, especially if the emotions are anything beyond the happy spectrum. Two, you have to be able to name the emotion. Did you know that to be considered fluent in the language of emotion, you should be able to name roughly 30-40 feelings? Crazy, right. Even with my ‘training,’ I can probably only name about 20.
To be able to rumble with yourself, you have to dig deep, name the emotion and then analyze it. Why am I feeling this? How is this impacting me? What does it mean to me? Sitting with emotion is the definition of vulnerability. It takes practice, and, yes, it will be uncomfortable.
The second piece of the rumble is doing it with others. Equally uncomfortable, but for different reasons. It means making yourself emotionally available to others. This process definitely does not mean spilling your deepest, darkest secrets. No, you have to set boundaries and ask yourself, why am I revealing this? If it’s for any reason other than building relationships, you’re saying it for the wrong reason. I struggle with this. I tend to dump on people by saying things I shouldn’t. It always leaves me with a sinking feeling and the ability to obsess over it for days, if not weeks to months. It only spikes my anxiety and makes me question everything about the relationship.
Rumbling with vulnerability with another person, or even a group, can be a decisive step to strengthening a relationship. One of the key things to this type of vulnerability is empathy—another area where I struggle. Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is looking at someone and saying, “I feel so bad for you.” Empathy is sitting with someone and saying, “That is hard. I feel you. I see you. I understand you.” Another tidbit from Brene: Empathy is not putting yourself in someone else’s scenario; it is putting yourself in their emotion. There will be many times when someone is vulnerable with you that you cannot imagine being in their shoes because you have absolutely no experience with that situation. Still, you probably do with the emotion they are feeling. Remember, there are roughly 40 emotions, and unless you are a sociopath, you have felt them all. Digging in to find the emotion and then relating to it? That is empathy.
Think of it like this. I don’t want your pity; I want your understanding.
If you are looking for a challenge, try rumbling with vulnerability, even once. You might be surprised what you find out about yourself.