Friday, March 14, 2008

The question of vulnerability

I spent 26 weeks working with a coach in 2007, during my self-proclaimed Year of Me. I became interested in coaching mostly because I recognized that I could do a better job of communicating at work, and was particularly interested in working with Ian Blei because he starts from the enneagram. I'd recently done an enneagram test and found that I liked it as a way of understanding my own and other's reactions and styles. Ian is phenomenal, and I got so much out of the process.

The main thing that Ian showed me from the very beginning is that I had/have a tremendous fear of vulnerability, to the point that I created a carapace around myself, an impermeable and indiscriminate suit of armor. I could go on for hours about why, but that's not the point. Paradoxically, it turns out that letting down my guard and being vulnerable, actually makes me more successful at work and elsewhere. This was reinforced for me lately by something in "The Power of Now":

Until there is surrender, unconscious role-playing constitutes a large part of human interaction. In surrender, you no longer need ego defenses and false masks. You become very simple, very real. “That’s dangerous,” says the ego. “You’ll get hurt. You’ll become vulnerable.” What the ego doesn’t know, of course, is that only through the letting go of resistance, through becoming “vulnerable,” can you discover your true and essential invulnerability.

But I am stunned by the ways in which I continue to perpetuate the "hard" outer shell - which has been coming back to me lately when I consider people's reactions to things I say, which I think are funny but which it appears they interpret as evidence of my mean-ness. I am thinking, in particular, about certain snarky comments I've made of late about Joe's chronic coughing and divorce. I've had the impression, from things people have responded, that they think I am without compassion for him, without love, when honestly nothing is farther from the truth.

So I'm reflecting on my pattern of hard and snarky speech which is at odds with how I want to be in the world, and which really is a throw-back to the armor and the fear of vulnerability. More work to do!

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