Vulnerability: Equal Parts Giving and Receiving

Dave, a friend of mine, responded to me about my post on Men’s Vulnerability Group and I thought it was worth re-posting some of it.

I have begun to realize and set aside all forms of asserting self-knowledge upon worlds that matter and have begun a journey of vulnerability that is characterized by receptivity and reflection instead of assertion and reaction.

And

Men are so often taught to disregard the relationship with their body (to play through the pain) and I believe that one of the ways for men to experience vulnerability is to receive (without needing to reassert ourselves). It’s one of the most difficult things for men to do, especially when it comes to physical contact.

I think Dave better articulates what I was trying to get at earlier.  Vulnerability I am seeing now is two-layered.  There is the kind of vulnerability where you put yourself out there and are exposed.  You feel this when sharing your story, or when you are waiting for reciprocity or affirmation.  Then there is the kind of vulnerability where you allow yourself to receive something.  Like receive a massage, or a Snuggle (my friend Dan started a Snuggle Therapy Service in London), or help with something that you never thought you needed before, or advice, or money, or the presence of a friend.  The first kind of vulnerability is the kind of vulnerability that the women were talking about when they say they had a vulnerability hangover after sharing their story.  The second kind is the kind of vulnerability that I have hard time with.

In the last few months I have been asked the question “what do you need” more than I ever have thought I would.  Being in a precariously vulnerable position in my life has put me in the position where I am constantly being asked what someone else can do for me.  I realize, that there is few people in the world that I have an easy time accepting something from.  Acknowledging that I have a need, and then allowing someone to fulfill that for me is not a world that I am comfortable operating in.  I’m unsure if it’s because I don’t want to admit I’m weak, or that I don’t want to show that I can’t handle this on my own.  Maybe it’s because I have never been good at meeting other’s needs, and so I don’t want to be a burden on someone and expect something from them knowing that I haven’t been there for them in the past.

Whatever the underlying reasons behind it, I am not very fluent in this second kind of vulnerability.  Giving of myself, my time, my energy, my story – I can do this all day.  Receiving those things from someone else?  It makes me uncomfortable.  This however is the kind of vulnerability that is necessary for relationships to thrive and grow and for a community to be healthy.

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