Relationship Hiding vs. Relationship Vulnerability (Part 3 of 4)
Greetings and welcome to my post. The purpose of this post is to engage in conversation about how all of us do relationships. I believe that we are created for relationships and what gives us the most meaning in our lives is the significant relationships we have with people. When we have positive, growing, and happy relationships, then our lives become more meaningful. But the opposite can also happen when we have conflict, hate, and hurt in our most important relationships. Then life can become very stressful and depressing.
About four months ago, a news announcement shocked the sports world. For those of you who like and follow sports, the announcement of the suicide death of Junior Seau was very shocking. He was only 43 years old. He will be considered one of the greatest linebackers of all time in the NFL and overall will be considered one of the nicest and greatest guys in sports. He had retired playing professional football a few years ago and was living in a beachfront home in San Diego. By all accounts, he was living a charmed life, having all the money he would ever need, and living in a mansion on the beach in San Diego. How else would one describe his life?
In parts 1 & 2 of this series, I explored how Junior Seau’s unfortunate death can be a lesson to all of us concerning how we relate to one another. It seems that Junior Seau did not want to let people know he was hurting nor ask others for help. It seemed to him that to avoid and go into hiding to deal with his pain alone and unfortunately, this led to his private decision to commit suicide. It appears he wanted to keep up the appearance of being a man who ccould handle things and be self-sufficient by dealing with problems by himself.
But now, I want to shift gears and focus on what are some ways that we can become more vulnerable and let people know more about who we are. It is about finding ways to move from hiding our hurts and needs to confessing and being vulnerable, asking for help for our hurts and needs.
When I ask you to consider various ways, in your relating, to become more vulnerable, how do you initially hear this? Is this something that you like to do, are afraid to do, is somewhat foreign to you and really don’t understand how to do? Maybe this has not been modeled to you or someone has not taught you this, so maybe it is something that you have never done. But it is something that can be learned and hopefully it is something you will practice.
What does it mean to be vulnerable? Probably the first thing you need to consider is a house with many rooms. And then consider a room titled ‘Doing Just Fine.’ This is a very popular room as many people tend to hide and cover up by using polite sentences of doing just fine. But, the reality is, many people are not just fine. I would go out on a limb and suggest that many people are hurting, lonely, confused, and frightened. Why else are we addicted to food, drugs, or needing to be part of a gang, or the like, for acceptance and love? ‘Fine People’ have convinced themselves that there is no real help for their issues or needs and that the best thing fine people can do is to hide their real and true identity.
Or, maybe you can relate to this group: “I am doing the best I can.” These folks tend to try and try to find the next thing that may help or heal what is hurting within them. Maybe they go from book to book, from diet to diet, from seminar to seminar looking for the next new technique hoping that this will change them. As a result, the thinking could be, “Nothing I try works. Maybe I don’t deserve answers. After all, others seem to figure out life, but I am not changing.”
So, to change from the hiding style’s of, ‘Doing Just Fine’ or ‘Doing The Best I Can’ is to enter the room of Vulnerability. This is the room of being real, being transparent, and really sharing with people who you are and how you really are doing. The challenge to do this resides in the conflict that all of us have: To Please or to Trust. It is like life is a journey, and on life’s road we come to a fork in the road where there are suddenly two roads before us: The Pleasing Road or The Trusting Road.
You see, to hide is to stay on the road or room that is most comfortable called the “Road of Pleasing.” This is the road in which you think of ways to please people by telling them what they want to hear. Therefore you make small talk by saying, ‘I am fine, I am okay, I am doing the best I can, I am trying to cope with all that I have going on in my life.’ This Pleasing Road then is all about making sure others are pleased with you and the conversation you are having, that if they are pleased then they won’t have to deal with your fears, your loneliness, your true feelings and hurts. You conclude, ‘I don’t want to burden others with my pain so I will please them by informing them I can handle my pain and I don’t need your help.’ Thus this road states that I don’t have to depend on anyone but me. Perhaps this is the road Junior Seau chose to be on.
On the opposite road though is the real, honest, and vulnerable road and room called, “The Trusting Road.” You see, to walk down this road and enter this room means that I have to depend on others. The Trusting Road means that I have to involve others and this is scary and frightening. This will involve being Honest. To be honest means to depend. And when we decide to make the shift from Pleasing to Trusting, a whole new world exist, that really, really is possible.
In Part 4 of this series, I will go deeper in explaining this shift, and I invite you to consider this new road called trusting. To trust and be honest can be a much more rewarding life.
Phil Kiehl, LMFT, M.Div.
P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this subject. Share your comments and share this article with others. Thanks.