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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

Vulnerability: The Key to Living Fully and From the Heart

May 28, 2013 11:50PM ● By Susan Hagen

Inspired living begins with fully buying in to life, getting off the sidelines and into the game. But what, exactly, does that look like? For starters, it means moving away from head-centered living to heart-centered living, which can only be done by risking vulnerability.

Being vulnerable means being open to other people, being willing to receive new information and impressions, and stepping outside one’s habitual patterns. Otherwise, isolation creates conditions in which the mind continually recycles the same thoughts and creates the same patterns over and over again.

Brené Brown, an author and professor at the University of Houston, has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame. She is a leading researcher on human connection. Through her research Brown has found that, while Americans prefer to numb out rather than risk feeling vulnerable, vulnerability is actually the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and love. “Whole-hearted people embrace vulnerability,” she says.

Tragedy often brings forth this vulnerability in people, causing them to see things differently and live from the heart, rather than from a place of self-protection. It may start with becoming less vigilant and being open to the interruptions that life offers on a daily basis to illustrate, confirm or teach us something. Being vulnerable may mean being the first one to extend a hand, an apology, a smile or a greeting. It may also involve initiating sex with your partner, starting a difficult conversation, offering forgiveness and revealing truths that lay the heart open.

Through vulnerability, defenses are released, offering opportunities for true, healthy connection with yourself and others. What needs defending, then, is vulnerability. This begins with knowing that the unconscious pull is often toward separation, finding fault, blaming and mislabeling the wrong people as “unsafe”. On the surface these may appear to be justified reasons for not risking vulnerability, but they only serve to cut people off from meaningful connections.

When a neighbor or co-worker does not reciprocate a greeting, when a spouse does not see their partner’s efforts, when a friend forgets the plan to get together; these can be triggering incidents. Such events present the choice to either remain heart-centered and open or gather evidence that supports shutting down. This choice creates the difference between living fully from the heart and tolerating a disconnected life. Inspired living brings forth a consciousness that thrives in remaining vulnerable, awake and fully alive.

Susan B. Hagen, MA, MEd, is an inspirational humorist with a psychotherapy practice in Cambridge. For more information, call 617-455-1313, email [email protected], or visit