The Language of Vulnerability

What to do when our emotions overwhelm us? Here’s how to be vulnerable with people we trust when we're upset.

Open up. The deep truth is always best. Jung said, Everyone already knows everything about everybody. We are just so used to living without honesty that we think it's normal to withhold and fudge and lie. Argh. All our withholds keep the therapists, pharmaceutical companies, psych hospitals, TV networks, junk food manufacturers, and retailers in business. But, the deep truth brings joy.

Emotions are not that complicated. Here's what they look like:

There will be conflict. There will be blood, as it were. In six simple, but challenging steps, below is the best way I know how to talk to someone you are safe with when things get intense.

~Stick to the formula. It’s been tested. Improvise only if you’ve mastered it.
~ Don’t lecture, patronize, blame, use “you” very often, yell (without permission and a special agreement to have a se ssion), hit or throw things.

Say:
1) When you (just behavior, no judgment) , I felt (sad, pain, fear) .

2) My stinkin’ thinkin’ was that you / I automatically projected that you ________________________.

3) The earliest memory I have right now of this flavor of (sadness, pain, fear) was when I was age and (what happened).

4) I need (safety/survival, love/belonging, fun, freedom, power) .

5) Could we try me (behavior) and you (behavior) ?

6) Your turn. I will listen now. You can use this formula, or say whatever you like. I will step out of my distressed feelings now and give you my delighted attention, whatever you say.


After they finish, you can discuss #5 and see if you can agree on a plan, a contract. It will help a lot if you do.


Example:
I was arguing with my lover when our relationship was in decline. It was too hot and I was scared. A good male friend, who was attracted to her, was there and we were all in a hurry. I said something angry and mean to her, and he swatted my head from behind. I leapt up and nearly hit him. I wish I had turned and said to him:

1) When you just hit me, I felt sadness and pain.


2) I automatically projected that you were after my lover and trying to humiliate and embarrass me in front of her.


3) The earliest memory I have right now of this flavor of sadness and pain was when I was age about 7 and I spilled the milk and dad slapped my face at the table in front of the extended family – I don’t even clearly remember it, but my older cousin does, and, when she tells the story, it comes back clearly.

4) I need safety and love.

5) Could we try me not yelling at my lover and you not hitting me, but telling me what’s up for you if I do get angry?

 6) Your turn. I will listen now. You can use this formula, or say whatever you like. I will step out of my distressed feelings now and give you my delighted attention, whatever you say.

Remember:

~ You can either have a relationship or you can be right.

~ You can either be right, or you can be happy.

~ The alternative to tragedy is damnation. ~Blake

~ Anger is insanity. Anger destroys relationships. Anger is a secondary emotion (even though patriarchy pushes it down so deep in women that it feels primary to them).

Anger is the cork in the champagne bottle. The cork that will hurt if you aim it wrongly. Get to the good stuff, the champagne!

It feels good and exciting to scream at someone, but it does damage, creates anxiety, ruins trust. Anger can open things up, uncover passion, etc, but, don't cultivate it! Always try to get directly to the more honest layers below anger. Go to a friend, therapist, priest -- anyone else -- and share your anger with them in preparation for sharing your deeper feelings with the person you were mad at. You will fail occasionally, and then you'll get the goodies anger offers.
~ If you must get angry directly at your lover, try to do so in a session. The person you're mad at can agree to hold space for you, stepping into the role of, co-counselor, listening neutrally and kindly and not letting your strong emotions do damage. ~ Love is always having to say you’re sorry.

~ Love is always having to say you’re sorry.

Exercise: Breathe the nine emotions through this way: Inhale the stuck emotions into the head and down into the belly, where they transform into yuck emotions. Soften a layer of holding in the belly before each inhalation. Relax and open your heart as the breath comes up from the belly. Exhale the yum emotions out into the world.