By Rachel Hinkle
Growing up, I constantly struggled with how to feel anything but surface emotion. Suppression could have been my middle name. Any emotions I had that were uncomfortable to face, I silenced instead. If I didn’t allow myself to feel them, the strong facade never had to wear off. This generally led to a comfortable bottling of serious emotion that would then release in ways I couldn’t quite understand. Within the past two years, I have made a purposeful attempt at truly understanding emotions and dealing with them head on. Guided meditation has recently forced me to reach into myself to feel what I have been suppressing for so long and allow myself to recognize and appreciate the sensations instead. When I began pulling out these emotions in regards to my relationships, I realized something significant. Vulnerability frightens me in a way that nothing else has before.
I have a close friend, we’ll call him L. We’ve been friends for a few years and I have quite easily allowed myself to have conversations with him that I do not have with most of the people in my life. One day, during my guided mediation, I asked myself, “How do I feel about my relationship with L”. The universe showed me vulnerability as the leading emotion in our friendship. Naturally (for me, at least), I completely freaked out. Vulnerability felt like a giant wave, crashing onto me as I huddled inside a small sailboat, and L was 500 miles away on a tiny island I could never reach. But in my mind, I disregarded this relentless fear and sailed on through the storms to the tiny little island where he stood. When I reached it, all I felt was a sudden rush of pure tenderness. When I rose from my meditation, I realized the importance of embracing this vulnerability so I could keep pushing on to feel the empowering emotions waiting for me on the island.
Fast forward to my decision to do one of the scariest, most thrilling things I have ever done for myself. A large majority of the time, I make big decisions on a whim. This, however, was a fully premeditated plan. I made a decision to travel to Europe for my birthday and visit my friend Mirjam in Germany, alone. Before this, I had never even stepped foot on an airplane as my father was insistent on driving all around the country when my brothers and I were younger. However, number one on my bucket list has been, “Eat pizza in Italy” for as long as I can remember and I’m the kind of person who likes to force dreams to become reality.
So, I’m writing this now from a small town in Germany in a room full of books in a language I don’t understand and I have been constantly surrounded by people who are unable to communicate with me. My comfort zone and my desire to suppress vulnerability stayed across the ocean, on the other side of the world. And here I am, enjoying every vulnerable second away from my fear.
A few days ago, I was sitting outside a café by the river in Amsterdam with Mirjam and her mother, Silvia, who both speak fluent English as a second language, enjoying coffees and desserts while I told them bits of my story. My abusive father, my depressed mother, helping to raise my two younger brothers, moving out on my own, leaving an abusive relationship, teenage pregnancy, couch hopping for several months, sexual assault, PTSD. Leaving the fear of vulnerability has allowed me to open up about the things I have gone through with ease.
“Do you know the word resilience” Silvia asked in her heavily accented English.
I flashed a wide smile and thought back to the first time I heard my therapist use the same word to describe me.
“I actually want to tattoo that word on my collarbone” I stated.
“You have it. Much resilience” she replied honestly.
A few days before this encounter at lunch, Silvia and Miri told me that Germans rarely give compliments, but that when they do, they mean them genuinely and deeply.
Resilience, I recognized is something that shows itself the most when vulnerability is embraced instead of suppressed.
So I urge you, SWL family, embrace the things vulnerability has to offer you. Find the places it will take you. You are worth it. You are so worth loving.