It’s important to be acknowledged and validated. Through skillful uses of vulnerabilities our innocence may be revealed establishing a greater presence concurrent with strengthened sensitivities and a renewed connectivity.
The necessity of heralding the benefits of innocence and vulnerability originates from a society that buries these qualities under masks of suppression and repression to project false fronts of strength and as a result makes secrets. This breeds an unhealthy emotional life that is systemic in this hierarchical culture. Part of the old guard – example – the New England mindset was never to show weakness – shed a tear, admit making a mistake and so on. Many modern peoples believe weeping to be a weakness when sad. One of the meta-rules of modern culture is not to show vulnerable emotions such as tearfulness or weeping in any setting. The one exception may be a man shedding a tear in the presence of a woman partner.
innocence and vulnerability have been denigrated throughout systemic patriarchal culture
The human culture has been one of projecting strength while denying vulnerability particularly in men and also in woman especially as they gain leadership roles in business, as professionals and in government. Due to the suppression or repression of innocence and vulnerability secrets grow in strength and unconscious aberrations of these secrets are vented as a result.
A simple form of unconscious venting is projection. One day when my mother came into my bedroom and was about to say something I burst into tears for no apparent reason. She said – don’t cry, act like a man. The grief I had felt wasn’t my own and she then shamed me for it and I felt confused and shamed. When simple projection becomes projective identification, the person receiving repeated projections is passive and may feel the identity of the other within themselves (see note at the end of this piece).
innocence at the core of the individual emanates from the essence of the person
In short innocence and vulnerability have been denigrated throughout systemic patriarchal culture. What happens when innocence and vulnerability are taken out of the closet and are utilized in daily social interactions?
What is innocence?
At the core of almost every individual innocence abides throughout the corporeal existence between birth and death. Innocence belongs to the infinite and is a part of being (see diagram below).
The loss of innocence as described in psychological theory and in literature confuses infinite innocence with innocence reframed by ego. Innocence (from Being) remains and is forgotten. It is forgotten because ego, linear space-time and language in the finite world rides roughshod over innocence that appears ephemeral and illusive because we have no language for it.
masks that give the appearance of strength, dull emotion behind the fear / avoidance of hurt
Shoshin a word from Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind” denotes an attitude of openness, a boundless thirst for exploration and a lack of preconceptions. “Beginner’s mind” is innocence that springs from an eternity in the present or a beingness.
A shamanistic perspective of innocence at the core of the individual emanates from the essence of the person. The essence is a frequency of light that runs near the spinal column to the skull. It enters through the top of the skull and streams out of the end of the spine at the tailbone. The essence is the core of a person separate from ego that is most evident in a child before language develops and up to age seven when ego-identity is fixed. It is usually at this juncture that essence and innocence begin to fade.
Setting strong and flexible boundaries, allowing for times of vulnerability can lead to skills of navigating
Essence and innocence appear in many peoples’ lives but almost always by accident because ego appears to exercise control in the finite realm. On occasion when ego becomes lax innocence and essence appear and a sense of magic, mystery and the divine seem to enter.
A spiritual practice and daily inner work are necessary for cultivating a space to exercise essence and innocence to grow and mature.
What is vulnerability?
Think of innocence as a state of being and vulnerability as a kind of fluidic action that opens to innocence. Vulnerability is a kind of currency that moves from the seeming closed and acceptable state of so-called “strength” of the finite world of ego to an opening of innocence in the infinite world of essence.
Continued masks that give the appearance of strength, dull emotion behind the fear / avoidance of hurt. The muscles of emotion along with the balance of beginner’s mind atrophies reducing sensitivity and connectivity. Individuals that are maturing emotionally can begin to take risks to be vulnerable, get hurt and recover. This is about utilizing and strengthening ego on the way to mastery.
finding a safe space within oneself
Setting strong and flexible boundaries, allowing for times of vulnerability can lead to skills of navigating in an emotional landscape even amongst those who are expert at hiding any feelings behind logic and reason. Even those who wield the mask of logic and intellect have emotions that are hidden and perhaps locked away. Sometimes by skillfully allowing oneself to be vulnerable it tacitly gives permission for others in social settings to relax their guard. Sometimes vulnerability when coupled with humor whether that be a witty or self-effacing comment, the armor that others hold can be loosened. A vulnerable leader can get a sense of the emotional temperature or climate of a social space. This can be useful in either attracting someone that wishes to share or someone that craves contact.
Using mild humor, witticisms, self-effacing statements or lines where laughing is elicited is a way of managing when you may have been too vulnerable. Laughter like crying releases emotional distress. Laughter, of course is socially acceptable while crying is not. Humor and laughter cannot be planned (unless you take the ultimate leap of stand-up comedy – but no guarantees). It takes self-trust and a willingness to release something unexpected in a social context even if it is only one to one communication. Enrolling in an improvisational acting and or humor class can be helpful in accelerating uses of vulnerability in informal social settings as well as being “a ton of fun”.
In the beginning of exploring emotional landscapes one might work on finding a safe space within oneself, then expanding that space to one or two others. As a man who arose from extreme social awkwardness it took me many years to begin to access the emotional temperature of others at a party for instance. It wasn’t until my mid 40s that I began to tolerate and trust myself enough to explore my vulnerability in social situations. It took work throughout my 30s, 40s and 50s. And the work is never completed.
when ego has gained sufficient maturity can vulnerability be used skillfully
As an empath I tend to absorb the chaotic, joyful emotions and the vibrations of those drinking, smoking marijuana or using other substances though I no longer partake – am clean and sober. Now when I attend parties I arrive late usually in the middle of the evening and leave early. I contact the host or hostess to say a brief “hello” upon arrival. They’re usually busy serving and checking in with guests. I wait until I find one person of interest. Though the last time I was at a gathering the person found me. If I am at an ebullient party where wine and MJ are being imbibed, especially to excess I get a contact high off these energies (and I am nowhere nearly the smoke). If I am there from one to two hours at most then it takes me one to three hours of being alone to detox from the vibrations of the gathering.
Only when ego has gained sufficient maturity can vulnerability be used skillfully. However, the very nature of using vulnerability to open to innocence there is always a risk of emotional injury. Most people dare not expose themselves to avoid emotional injury and remain a person wearing a mask or shield. A young person in the throes of naiveté exposes themselves without regard to consequences. This is not being vulnerable – more a wild abandonment – a shot out of a cannon.
Some End Notes
Navigating emotions in social situations takes a modicum of self-awareness, trust in one-self, a strong ego with flexible boundaries and willing to take risks (become vulnerable). Taking risks means a willingness to be hurt emotionally and knowing you will recover and gain nuance in the skill set of vulnerability.
In the beginning it may be good to have an intention or a goal for possible vulnerability so you can get “the hang of it.” As you become more skilled with a higher functioning ego choosing when and how much to expose by being vulnerable will become easier. However, the risk will always be there.
Working with vulnerability, innocence and being is an art form that requires continued practice.