I’m taking a workshop about IFS, Internal Family Systems. It’s a system for healing trauma based on the parts that live within. Who hasn’t said, “A part of me feels this way and a part of me feels differently? Well, why not give those parts full voice? They have more influence on your state of being than you might realize.

The presenter, Frank Anderson, talked briefly about vulnerability. He mentioned Brené Brown’s brilliant work on the subject; if you haven’t seen her two initial TED talks, I recommend them; they’re a real treat – both inspiring and funny. Worth watching again, even if you’ve seen them. Here are links: One, Two.

When I look up vulnerability in the Cambridge dictionary, it offers the following – the quality of being vulnerable = able to be easily hurt, influenced or attacked. says: 

1) openness or susceptibility to attack or harm,

2) willingness to show emotion or to allow one’s weaknesses to be seen or known; willingness to risk being emotionally hurt: 

And Merriam Webster’s definition: 

1capable of being physically or emotionally wounded

2open to attack or damage

None of it sounds too safe. 

Brené Brown offers that being vulnerable is a superpower. Frank and Brené relay thoughts that hit my heart on a deep level.

In his talk, Frank mentions Brené Brown’s definition of vulnerability as risk, resilience and emotional exposure. That vulnerability is not a problem. That to feel at all is to be vulnerable. I agree. 

I just looked up Brene’s words, “The definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. But vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our most accurate measure of courage. When the barrier is our belief about vulnerability, the question becomes: ‘Are we willing to show up and be seen when we can’t control the outcome?’ When the barrier to vulnerability is about safety, the question becomes: ‘Are we willing to create courageous spaces so we can be fully seen?”

Frank offers that for him, the first part of vulnerability is being aligned with what he’s feeling. The second piece is sharing that truth with someone else. 

How comfortable are you sharing your truth with another person? What will they think or say? What if they tell you your thoughts are stupid or that there’s something wrong with you for feeling that way? Or, how could you think like that? 

Would you have the fortitude to respond, or would it crush you? 

Does their response, frequently more subtle than what I mentioned (easily recognized and dissected through hypervigilance!), influence how you feel about yourself? Is their response about you or about something you’ve touched on in them that makes them feel uncomfortable?

When you’ve endured trauma, that’s often where it gets tricky. Being vulnerable isn’t the issue so much as someone else’s reaction to your truth. Trauma survivors will think the problem is with their feelings, not the person’s response. They don’t recognize that the truth within themselves is as valid as anyone else’s. That what gets activated when someone responds negatively to them are old wounds that haven’t yet healed but can heal. Old wounds can heal. 

Read that again. Old wounds can heal. 

Healing old wounds is worth it. You can do it if you want to, and the viewpoint from where you stand will alter. It’s freeing, and it requires something. 

There’s a part of you, your true self, your essence, the big S self, call it what you want, that is always present but often overshadowed by old stories and beliefs. By the internal protectors, managers and wounded parts, the survival/ defense mechanisms that deserve gratitude for keeping you alive as a child but can hurt you as an adult. They can retire – they’ve done their job and can turn the reigns over. They just don’t know it. 

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