Issue 81 –
Vulnerability: Part 1
The Key to Intimacy in Relationship
Drs Hal & Sidra Stone
The Importance of Vulnerability
As we have clearly stated in the previous chapter the entire development of personality, or primary selves is aimed at protecting one’s vulnerability.
When we discuss falling in love, we will show how the actual act of falling in love allows the vulnerable child, the carrier of this vulnerability, to surface and to make an intense contact with another human being, without the usual protection of these primary selves. This ability to be vulnerable with one another, to allow the emergence of every feeling, thought and reaction, and to cherish all of them, makes the process of falling in love a wonderful experience.
It is one’s vulnerability which makes intimacy in relationship possible, and conversely, it is this same vulnerability and apparent lack of power that the primary selves most fear in relationship.
Just as it is the inclusion of vulnerability in relationship that allows intimacy, so it is the disowning of this vulnerability that later destroys intimacy.
Over the years we have found that in our own relationship and the relationships of those around us, it is disowned vulnerability that is the catalyst of all bonding patterns that, in turn, destroy true intimacy.
When we disown our vulnerable child, we do not attend to it properly. Since it is imperative for this child to receive adequate care, it will look elsewhere and bond into the people around us, requiring them to provide the care that is otherwise lacking. We will not be aware of this process because we do not know about our vulnerability. So, in an entirely unconscious fashion, we’re automatically drawn into powerful parent/child bondings over and over again.
Sometimes these bonding patterns feel positive, and sometimes they feel negative. These bonding patterns are of the upmost importance in relationships.
How might this denial of vulnerability and subsequent bonding look ?
Let us say that Larry and Lauren are driving to dinner. The night is dark and stormy and the road winds along a cliff. Larry is driving, as usual, but tonight he is tired, the day’s been difficult, and he’s feeling uneasy but does not know why.
Larry, however, does not know about his vulnerability and so pushes his feelings of uneasiness down, moving instead into his judgmental father self and becoming more and more critical.
He questions Lauren about what she has done during the day and becomes particularly irritable when he discovers that she spent two hours at lunch with a friend.
“Why don’t you take care of business, why are you wasting time at lunch when you haven’t finished our tax preparation yet?” he finally shouts at her. And off they go. An evening that was supposed to be a pleasure turns into a miserable affair with both people feeling dreadful, neither knowing what has happened.
What actually has happened is that Larry has denied his vulnerability, and his needy child is automatically and unconsciously bonded into Lauren. This child needs her to be taking care of Larry even though Larry is not aware of it.
Larry has also bonded to Lauren from his judgmental father, who criticises her for not meeting the needs of this child.
How might this be different if Larry were aware of the needs of his child and had some choices of how to behave? Larry would be in touch with his vulnerability, he would know that he was tired and uneasy. He would then be in a position to take some action through an Aware Ego. He might suggest that Lauren drive to dinner so that he could relax, he might suggest that they go someplace close to home, or he might just take the opportunity presented by being in the car alone with her to talk about his unhappiness and exhaustion.
In this way he would be dealing directly with the underlying vulnerability and taking responsibility for the care of his own vulnerable child.
Caring for this inner child through an Aware Ego gives a feeling of real strength. It represents, in our way of thinking, real empowerment. When the Aware Ego is caring for the vulnerable child, there is no longer the need to rely solely on the automatic protective devices provided by primary selves, even though this has given a sense of security in the past. Nor is there the need to rely on others to assume responsibility for this child.
It is important to know that each one of us is ultimately responsible parenting the vulnerable child within. When we are caring adequately for our own vulnerability, we are in a position to relate deeply and effectively to others.
When we do not care adequately for our own vulnerable child, it will seek this care elsewhere and bond in deeply and unconsciously to the parental side of others. In order to care for the vulnerable child, we must understand how it operates within us