But since this puts us in a vicious cycle of unfulfilled desires, we have to trust that our partner, even if we don't always trust them, will still want to be with us. It's paradoxical:
"In order for you to trust me, I have to become aware that there will be times when you cannot trust me. I have to become aware that there will be times when I will be guided by my shadow and I will (unconsciously) create situations where neither I nor you can trust me. And I need to let you know that, so I know you will trust me."
It's not too complicated, it's paradoxical.
It is the two forces that reside within us and are opposites that need to be acknowledged and integrated:
The so-called "lower self" is the part of us that strives for separation, driven by fear (fear of being hurt, abandoned, humiliated, betrayed, not having or being enough, etc.). This is very often not "apparent" and mostly unconscious and is also often referred to as the "shadow".
The "Higher Self", the opposite, is the part of us that strives for connectedness and oneness, that has a deeper knowing of who we really are and that we are all One.
This is an important realization in relationships, "Am I willing to acknowledge that I am always being led by my shadow???? ALWAYS!"
How does the lower self show up in relationships:
- "I am right, you are wrong".
- "I must be right!"
- "I am one hundred percent right!"
- "I am absolutely wrong!"
- "I can't be wrong!"
Any "absolute" statement is an expression of the lower self. When we persist in duality (good vs. bad, correct vs. incorrect, fair vs. unfair, always vs. never) it is an indication that we are living in our lower self.
Duality very often gives us a sense of security because we then have a fixed definition. We think we know and knowledge gives us security.
Vulnerability is sacrificing the pursuit of security.
Vulnerability is the ability not to be fixated on the outcome.
We have to risk being unsafe in relationships in order to be vulnerable, real and trustworthy.
And when we talk about "feeling insecure", we are usually talking about a danger to our self-image. Of course there is such a thing as a danger to the body, but I'm not talking about that now, I'm talking about emotional safety.
We often say "I don't feel safe" instead of saying straight out "I don't like this".
We so often hold back because we think we are not safe, or because we might be judged. Our idealised Self is not safe (because we might lose our image), but that is an illusion. And of course, we don't like it. But what is the danger? The rejection? The pain? The loneliness? ... And again, what is the danger?
The danger is the dying of the idea I had of myself. The dying of my idealised self.
And what is the danger in that?
That I don't know who I am. Because the idea of who I am is dying. When I'm willing to not know who I am, that's real vulnerability and the real living of one's self.
So when we talk about vulnerability and helplessness, we are talking about starving the longing we have for connection, a fundamental human need. We have to be willing to allow vulnerability in order to have that yearning, that sense of longing, of connection and intimacy.
How does Core Energetics come into play here? Core Energetics work is an evolutionary process. It is a process of evolving, of growing to not have to identify with anything. You have to let go of all ideas of who the self is and what life is. That is what the development of the Self is about. It's about not needing definitions, being willing to be seen naked, not necessarily by others, but by yourself.
So when we talk about vulnerability and helplessness, we are talking about starving the longing we have for connection, a basic human need. We have to be willing to allow vulnerability to fulfil that desire, that longing for connection and intimacy.
How does Core Energetics come into play here? Core Energetics work is an evolutionary process. It is a process of evolving, of growing to not have to identify with anything. You have to let go of all ideas of who the self is and what life is. That is what the development of the self is about. It's about not needing definitions, being willing to be seen naked, not necessarily by others, but by yourself.
So it's an evolutionary journey, towards a total embrace of the Self. By that I mean freeing oneself from the shackles of martyrdom of "there is something wrong with me". Not in the sense of "there is nothing I need to change" or "there is nothing I need to look at". We all have things that we should look at. We all have ways in which we don't serve life or ourselves, and we can all stand to question that, but that doesn't equate to "there's something wrong with me".
It is easier for me to live with the fact that I think there is something wrong with me, because then I can work on becoming better, then I am not helpless. The moment I decide that there is something wrong with me, I can fix it, I can fix myself instead of accepting that being human means that I am fundamentally helpless and not perfect.
There will always be moments in our relationships when we are afraid.
My teacher once gave this wonderful example: It is like swimming in the ocean: what makes you feel safe when the water gets choppy? To drift with the wave. Not trying to control the wave, not trying to work against it, but not worrying about safety. To be safe in the water, we need to allow "intimacy" with the waves.
If we have some fear, there is nothing wrong with that, because that is the part of being human. And that's basically the basis of the Core Energetics work: I really believe that there is no way to have intimacy without distrust in what vulnerability can bring us. It's really about being willing to say "YES" to any experience and not sitting back and waiting for some illusory security.
In Janis Joplin's song "Me and Bobby McGee" there is the line "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose". I lose all my clothes and you see me naked, nothing else is there to protect me.
So when we talk about wanting to be intimate with people, to be close to them, what are we talking about? About being free with them: "I want to be free with you. Whoever I am is fine and the relationship will be complete". This is what we truly seek.
That has a lot to do with boundaries and vulnerability also has a lot to do with boundaries, so also saying NO. "In order for me to feel free so that I can come to you, I need to know that you will be able to say NO and that makes me even freer so that I can be vulnerable."
We've already talked about boundaries... We often say, "I need to protect my boundaries"; but what do we mean by that?
Most of the time we mean, "I will keep an eye on you so you don't hurt me". " I'm going to watch out so that you don't take something away from me", "I have to watch out so that you don't take my space".
And when we think about protecting our boundaries, we usually think about focusing our attention on the other person and trying to protect ourselves from that.
But the true protection of my boundaries comes from going within and being aware of what I need. And trust in it.
So protecting my boundaries means following my needs.
And what is our deepest need in life? CONNECTION.
Connectedness with reality, that is our deepest need.
To feel "reality", life, flowing through me.... You can call it God, you can call it life force.
Questions for Reflection
- What idealized images of yourself and your partner govern your relationship?
- How do these images and expectations prevent you from exposing your vulnerability?
- How (which behavior) do you create an illusory security and what do you hide behind it (your vulnerability)? And your partner, what is his/her pattern?
- Where do you not trust yourself?
- Do you trust your partner to trust you, even when you are not able to?
- What is your greatest fear of the unknown?
- What do you think you don't know about yourself? And your partner?
In the next article we will look at transgression and how we redefine ourselves, our relationships and monogamy.
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Erena Bramos Lecture on “Helplessness vs. Vulnerability” at the Core Energetic Institute Greece