Vulnerability, Fear, and Power


            Mid-life brings an urgency to become ourselves--truly, wholly, authentically.  What we have ignored inside ourselves now demands integration.  For many of us that includes vulnerability.  Just as sex was the dirty word of the Victorian age, vulnerability now is despised.  It seems that people would rather tolerate abuse and rationalize that it really isn’t abuse(“that’s just the way she is”) than to acknowledge that they are hurt by another’s words.  Feeling hurt is more feared than being physically injured. A football player will charge a line of oversized men but will not sit with his tears alone or in the company of his best friend.  A business woman will work 14 hours a day without complaining or acknowledging her need for play. Anything to stay In Control.

            Our years until mid-life have been devoted to augmenting our armamentarium of resources to distinguish ourselves as valuable, desirable, and worthy.  At mid-life, however, we must BE ourselves and that implies owning those unintegrated aspects.  We realize that true power is not about dismissing what our minds fear but about owning the fear.  We can’t escape the traits we don’t want to see and at mid-life we don’t even want to escape because it’s only ourselves we leave behind.

            So we move into that vulnerability that has scared us so.  We feel touched by a scene in a movie and we cry and then keep crying.  We’re offended by a mean-spirited comment and we don’t pretend that we’re not.  How others see us isn’t as important as being true to ourselves.  Integrity becomes the overarching value.  And with that commitment to our integrity, we allow ourselves to experience intense feelings when they come rather than trying to “understand” them. 

            Earlier in our lives sobbing for five hours alone on the floor would have terrified us.  “What if I never stop crying?” we may have thought.  Holding onto Control for what seemed like our very survival was the first priority.  All that has shifted now as living large compels us undeniably.  So what if a tidal wave of emotion threatens to drown us?  We’ve lived through our worst fears.  We can live through whatever today brings, too.  Suddenly Control is not only irrelevant, it impedes our aliveness.

            So we invite today to bring its challenges.  We want to face everything.  We want to confront our fears.  We want to experience what has scared us.  And we know we can handle it, not because we have erected a giant ego but because we have learned the lesson and promise of surrender.  We know that when we surrender to Life, we are carried through the storm to peaks we haven’t before seen.  We are shown vistas our eyes can’t perceive when we hug the ground in avoidance of our feelings.  Surrender carries us higher than we could manage by our own efforts.            We experience power that moves through us.  We don’t control it or even use it.  We open to it and accept it and let it carry us.  We realize that it isn’t interpersonal.  In fact, we feel humbled experiencing the roar of Life.  And that’s when we own our power–when we let Life happen and say “Thank you” no matter what.  We have no enemies and no need to dominate or submit to another person.  We see Life acting through others and realize we’re all here to learn our lessons.  Power is accepting our humble stance, speaking when spoken through, and knowing that staying in rapport with Source energy (as Wayne Dyer says) is our only job.

            Only by moving deeply into our vulnerability and trusting it to carry us, do we realize what power truly is.  We align with that Life force greater than our minds and subject our minds to it.  When that force is clearly the one moving and directing us without input from our minds, we realize power.  Paradoxically, power isn’t about “doing” but about allowing.  We allow Life to happen. We allow our reactions to occur and we don’t act on them.  We allow our feelings to arise and we accept them.  We do less than we ever have and feel more ourselves–because we

experience power moving through us, not coming from us.  And that is the magic of mid-life---we grow into the fullness of our power through surrender and acceptance.

            Gravitas is a word I especially like.  It implies weight and dignity and knowing what you’re about.  A woman (or a man) with gravitas knows what’s important.  She’s not thrown off her committed center path by wanting approval from anyone else.  Losing pounds isn’t more important than exercising her values.  Speaking out against injustice is more valuable than fitting into an acceptable mold.

            Many of us can act that part.  Our behavior is beyond reproach, laudatory even.  But the world isn’t only what we can see and touch.  Our inner world anchors gravitas.

            Integrity contributes to gravitas.  Being whole implies not ignoring our weakness and fear and hurt.  Acknowledging every part of ourselves, regardless of what we would intellectually prefer were true, precedes integration.  Perhaps we wish we weren’t so quick to anger but the  truth is that we are.  And when we’re angry we have to admit that we do things which aren’t nice and which do hurt.  And going even further, we realize that we don’t mind if someone is hurt.  In fact, we like feeling powerful enough to impact someone else.

            But that isn’t true power.  Spreading pain isn’t what we’re about, no matter how justified we think it is.  If we have to rationalize our actions or words, we know something doesn’t fit.  And if we have the intestinal fortitude to sit with ourselves, alone, in the darkest parts of our depths, we see that our own hurt underlies our hurtful words.

            So, if we are committed to integrity and gravitas why don’t we heal our own wounds?  It seems like any adult would choose to do that.  When we commit to that healing path, however, we find that it takes us out of the adult realm and quickly deposits us into an irrational world with spooky characters and hungry quicksand and threatening monsters. And then what do we do?

            Doing isn’t of much relevance in the inner world.  In there it’s more about not doing.  Not doing anything and feeling the fear which may be inherent in acknowledging vulnerability.  Not doing and letting Life happen and waiting for a door to open or a word to be spoken by a stranger or a feeling we’ve been avoiding to arise.  Not doing and choosing surrender to the healing process of our inner worlds.

            When we work with Life from a position of surrender, then we open to true power.  Then we don’t come from our little egos in a defensive stance, ready to battle.  When we move into the world undefended, not even knowing the answer but being willing to ask the question, then we embrace power. 

            We find that power isn’t force.  It isn’t threats or selfish bragging or diplomas on the wall or money in the bank. Power isn’t interpersonal.  Power is basically an experience of unity within ourselves. We welcome everything that lives in us and come to know it and integrate it.  We make a commitment to our lives. We know that who we are and how we be and later what we do matters.  But we put the first step first. Healing ourselves.             

            Consciousness work (which healing ourselves is) offers our minute-to-minute experience meaning and depth.  Consciousness is the “is-ness” of all being.  We fracture that is-ness when we deny our vulnerability and pretend that we don’t feel what we feel, when we act adult instead of holding the crying child within us, when we refuse to be present to our pain and our fear and our despair. 

            True power comes from integrating those parts of ourselves which are not what we like and not what we show to anyone and definitely not what we advertise.  Seems paradoxical, doesn’t it, that power implies not fighting vulnerability but owning it and embracing it and, thereby, integrating it.  I agree that it’s an uncomfortable process and one that any rational person would avoid if we could.  But Life isn’t about rationality and it’s not about Control.  Life isn’t ours to mold (except in the details).  The deep powerful flow is beyond any one of us but we all share in it.  Relentlessly, we’re carried to those places inside which are bruised, those hurts which are not healed, the spots where we haven’t forgiven and, thus, can’t move on.  Our work this lifetime truly is about healing our consciousness.  The integration of our consciousness with a consciousness greater than ours is another description of power.  For by that integration we realize our place and we surrender and trust the Life flow.  Power is that trust and that allowing and that basic surrender.  We own our Power when we align with the Life force and say “Your will be done.”


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