NYC Psychotherapist Blog

power by WikipediaMindmap

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Emotional Vulnerability as a Strength in Relationships

There are many misconceptions about emotional vulnerability.  Emotional vulnerability is often described as negative and mislabeled as being "weak." But rather than being weak, vulnerability is actually a strength, which is the focus of this article (see my article: The Emotional Vulnerability of Being in a Relationship and Vulnerability as a Pathway to Greater Emotional Intimacy in a Relationship).

Emotional Vulnerability as a Strength in Relationships

What is Emotional Vulnerability?
Before we delve into how emotional vulnerability is a strength in relationships, let's first define it.

Emotional vulnerability involves risk, uncertainty and exposing your emotions. 

You can experience emotional vulnerability when you try something new by going outside your comfort zone.  

Vulnerability is a natural part of personal growth (see my article: Being Open to New Experiences).

Vulnerability is also inevitable.  In general, aside from relationships, you can't live your life without ever feeling emotionally vulnerable.

For instance, when you challenge yourself to take a public speaking class and it's your turn to go up in front of the class to give your talk, you can feel a rush of emotions, including fear, embarrassment, uncertainty and other difficult emotions.  But afterwards, you can feel proud that you did something difficult, and accomplished because you were able to give your talk in front of your classmates--despite your fear.

What is Emotional Vulnerability in Relationships?
Putting yourself out there for a potential relationship often feels risky because you're opening yourself up to the possibility of getting hurt.  Of course, you're also opening yourself to the possibility of experiencing love.  

Emotional Vulnerability as a Strength in Relationships

Even though being emotionally vulnerable can feel uncomfortable, it's the only way you can hope to find love in an intimate relationship.  

It's normal to feel somewhat scared when you open up emotionally to someone else. It takes courage to push through your fear to allow yourself to be vulnerable (see my article: Growing as an Individual While You're in a Relationship).

In order to have what you want in terms of being in a relationship, you have to be willing to allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to take a chance.  

This doesn't mean you completely open your heart when you first meet someone.  Instead, it's a gradual opening over time as you get to know someone and feel more comfortable opening up more emotionally to that person (see my article: Intimate Relationships Provide You New Ways to Get to Know Yourself).

Tips on Being Vulnerable
  • Practice Self Compassion: Rather than berating yourself for your fear of being vulnerable, practice self compassion. Recognize that you're being brave when you allow yourself to open up to yourself and to someone you care about.
  • Be in the Moment: Rather than focusing on what someone else might think or say, keep your thoughts in the present moment.  Rather than thinking about what might happen, just focus on now.  Mindfulness meditation can be very helpful in terms of helping you to develop the skill to be in the present moment.
  • Don't Focus on Other People's Opinions of You: Other people are mostly focused on themselves. When you focus on how you think others will see you, you are often projecting your own negative feelings about yourself onto others. You also can't control what other people are thinking, so try not to worry about it.  
  • Take a Breath to Calm Yourself: If you're feeling nervous, take a moment to focus on your breath and bring your attention to your body.  Slow down and don't allow negative thoughts to overtake you (see my article: Learning to Relax: Square Breathing).
  • Share Your Feelings: When you have gotten to know someone and you care about them, sharing your feelings can deepen your relationship with them.  This can feel risky, especially if you're not sure if they care about you in the same way. But there's only one way to find out and that's by sharing your feelings. 

Emotional Vulnerability as a Strength in Relationships
As I have mentioned in previous articles, emotional vulnerability is a pathway to greater emotional intimacy so that it's a definite strength in a relationship.

Emotional Vulnerability as a Strength in Relationships

Emotional vulnerability
  • Allows you to be your authentic self
  • Helps to build empathy between you and your significant other 
  • Can take down the walls or defensive barriers between you and others
  • Can give you confidence to be even more vulnerable
  • Can encourage the other person to be emotionally vulnerable with you
  • Helps you to connect with people who are accepting of you

Obstacles to Emotional Vulnerability
If you grew up in a family where it wasn't safe to express your emotions or you didn't see others expressing vulnerable emotions, you might have a particularly difficult time being vulnerable (see my article: Are You Afraid of Emotional Intimacy? and How Trauma Affects Intimate Relationships).

Unresolved trauma from the past, including childhood emotional neglect or abuse, might be getting in your way (see my article: Unresolved Trauma Creates Negative Expectations About the Future).

You might
  • Not know what you really feel because you were discouraged from expressing emotions as a child and you didn't learn to identify your emotions
  • Not have the words to express how you feel
  • Think you have to express yourself "perfectly"
  • Be so afraid of rejection that you feel emotionally paralyzed
  • Catastrophize about all the things you imagine can go wrong to the point where you don't express yourself--even though you really want to do it
  • Fear you'll be embarrassed by your feelings
  • Become emotionally paralyzed by shame
  • Numb yourself to your real feelings
Next Article
I'll focus on how you can overcome obstacles to emotional intimacy in my next article.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I am a trauma specialist who works with individual adults and couples (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.