KILDARE MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: Insights on vulnerability from the therapy chair

Dr Eddie gives his views

KILDARE MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: Insights on vulnerability from the therapy chair

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The therapy room is a unique space. My room is comfortable and has a comfy chairs with some cushions.

Mary comes in and takes off her coat, which is like her coat of armour. Once it’s taken off, she allows herself to relax and offload.

Sean, a young man comes in, crashes into the chair, exhales, and holds on to and squeezes the cushions as he talks.

If children over the age of six come into the room, I teach them draughts. Modern children are so used to screen time, the draughts game always works as an engagement process. During this time of ‘playing’ we get the opportunity to explore what’s going on — and then that’s when I look for solutions.

Vulnerability & Acceptance

Vulnerability and acceptance are two key areas in life that we all have to work on. In life, vulnerability is often seen as a negative.

Some people openly cry when upset. Take Joan, who I meet recently. She was recounting a frequent situation in her relationship.

“I want to talk to my partner,” she told me. ” I really need to tell him he is upsetting me. I cry when I try to give him this message and instead he sabotages me by saying ‘there you go you are crying again’.”

We worked on how best she could give a message while being upset.

She needs to be able to say: “Even though I am upset and crying, what I am saying is important. You need to …”

This is a key skill if your vulnerability is being used against you.

Over the years on RTÉ’s Operation Transformation I have come to appreciate the leaders for how they allow us into their lives and for how they showtheir vulnerability. I think that to get to a place of new strength, we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

Most of us have vulnerabilities — in fact, I believe we all have.

In true relationships, we open up and let others know our vulnerabilities. This is a big part of the connecting and bonding process. A tension exists between this vulnerability and how we are taught to show the opposite — namely become guarded and immune to the slings and arrows of life. Could it be that how we approach vulnerability is an unhelpful mindset? Could we be setting ourselves and our children up for even bigger falls?

Vulnerability is part of the human experience. Many times we look for it in others and deny it within ourselves.

Our vulnerabilities, known or unknown to us, amplify our hurts, heartbreaks and setbacks.

If we didn’t have these experiences, then where are we with experiencing the joys and happiness of life? Vulnerability is part of our human experience and that is also our strength.

Embracing vulnerability is what boxer Muhammad Ali taught us — how we can be both strong and vulnerable. Embracing vulnerability rather than fighting against it allows for those with emotional struggles to tackle their difficulties in a different way.

Stephen Russell, the author, noted that “vulnerability is the only authentic state. Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty”.

Five Reasons why Embracing Vulnerability Matters

1. Embracing vulnerability makes you more authentic and truthful with yourself and others

2. Embracing vulnerability takes you out of the safe comfort zone into that space when magic happens — hence our growth is deeper

3. Embracing vulnerability allows you to connect on a more authentic level with yourself and others.

This bonding enhances connection and relationships. It allows us to love deeper

4. Embracing vulnerability enhances your romantic and sexual relationships are you are more emotionally available

5. Embracing vulnerability moves you from ‘human doing’ to ‘human being’ — thereby promoting your wellbeing.

Therapists rightly say that before we remove a defence we need to replace it with healthier actions. The challenge for all of is to identify our true vulnerabilities and find acceptance of the stuff that we are avoiding because we fear or don’t know how to change or face it.

Finally, don’t let your vulnerability be used against you. You are at your greatest when vulnerable. It’s a measure of your courage.

Dr Eddie Murphy runs a psychological and counselling service in Portarlington, Co Laois. If you are organising a speaker or training for school, community, voluntary, sporting or work groups, call Dr Eddie on 087 1302899 or go to dr.eddie.murphy.psychologist

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