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Vulnerability is hard. For some, vulnerability can mean making oneself an easy target for ridicule, rejection, and even abuse. Which is why vulnerability in religious contexts feels very risky.
In this blog, I want to discuss why vulnerability is important, why trauma can hold you back from being vulnerable, the relationship between religious trauma and vulnerability, and why vulnerability is an essential step in your journey towards healing.
It's undeniable that vulnerability matters. But for some, vulnerability is equal to weakness. They see it as a personal failure to “keep it together”. But what they don’t see is the absolute power of vulnerability to break down barriers, connect people and help you claim your inner strength.
People who have experienced trauma often find it difficult to be vulnerable due to the lingering pain and fear associated with their past experiences. The wounds from their traumatic events can make it challenging for them to trust others and themselves, leading to emotional walls as a means of self-protection.
The overwhelming emotions linked to the trauma may trigger a desire to avoid vulnerability altogether. The trauma can also disrupt their ability to regulate emotions effectively, making it harder to express their feelings openly.
As a result, they may withdraw from others and resist sharing their vulnerabilities to avoid potential re-traumatization or rejection. It's essential to recognize that struggling with vulnerability after trauma is a natural response, and individuals should be met with understanding and patience as they work through their healing process
When we were in religious settings we were encouraged to be vulnerable and transparent. Confession, for example, was lauded as the best way to ensure one’s personal spiritual health as well as one’s secure place in the community. But many of us soon discovered that baring our souls in confession also meant people knew our weaknesses and struggles. We trusted people with personal information, especially those in leadership positions. And, for many of us, this trust was betrayed when our struggles were used for spiritual blackmail and opened the door to spiritual abuse. That’s what inspired this cartoon:
I believe in vulnerability. I practice it myself. And over time I’ve noticed that the more vulnerable I become, the more my religious trauma heals. When you are vulnerable you embrace and accept the things that have happened to you as well as how you feel about them. You accept that you cannot change the past and you develop the ability to look forward instead of backwards. Being vulnerable means you’re able to share how you are feeling with those around you which will help you develop an empowering support system.
That’s enough talk about vulnerability! It's time for you to take what I’ve shared and start living your life more vulnerably. Embrace your feelings and encourage those around you to do the same.