Vulnerability as courage

Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness.
It’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.

– Brene Brown, Power of Vulnerability (TED talk)

I struggle with making myself vulnerable. It’s no secret.

I’ve talked about it before in different ways: With some depth here, and more recently here.

I feel vulnerable at times, of course, but I show it very selectively, with reluctance, and I don’t like how it feels. It’s hard for me. If you want to see what my vulnerability looks like, well, it looks like this and this, and if you want to see me bleeding out all over the floor, it looks like this.

Having said all that about how I am not comfortable making myself vulnerable, vulnerability is one of the qualities that I am most attracted to in a submissive. I want a boy who is willing and able and *eager* to lay himself bare.

The fact that I admire and seek vulnerability in my submissive, but am not good at it myself is interesting to me on many levels.

My own vulnerability feels like weakness. His vulnerability feels like strength. I honestly don’t even know how that works in my head. But it’s there.

I wonder if I am trying to balance out my deficiency with what he offers. That it makes us balanced, somehow, as a couple. Perhaps I feed on his vulnerability like some kind of emotional vampire, and he gets an environment in which he feels safe to express it.

And I think it’s also about power. Not just the power of keeping my own vulnerability hidden, but that I feel more powerful if he is more willing and able to make himself vulnerable than I am. A kind of emotional equivalent of ‘clothed female, naked male’. That doesn’t sound too healthy to me, but since I’m practising at making myself vulnerable, there it is.

Either way, his vulnerability makes him violently attractive to me. He becomes prey when he is vulnerable, when he sends out a distress signal and opens himself up. I can smell blood in the water, and become all sharp teeth and hungry appetite. At the same time, it brings out a terrible and deep tenderness in me, the nurturer. And they both exist at the same time, which is, I guess, what prevents me from being some dangerous sociopath.

Making yourself vulnerable is courageous. It’s essentially the ability to overcome fear. Fear of being hurt, fear of making a fool of yourself, fear of embarrassment, fear of shame, fear of rejection, fear of not being good enough, fear of getting it wrong, fear of loss… a million fears all neatly tied up in a big scary bundle with a big bow of terror. Being willing to make yourself vulnerable is really saying “I’m willing to take the hit, bring it!”, and that kind of courage blows my mind.

I’m in awe of those who can do it, and a little bit in love with those who *crave* to do it. When I think about what I want in a submissive, one of the characteristics is someone who is emotionally fearless, and that means someone who is willing and able to make themselves vulnerable. And that’s so very difficult, and amazing, and wonderful.

GD Star Rating
loading...

You may also like

46 Comments

  1. Courage I think takes many forms and sometimes we don’t see it in ourselves, apart from having a serious crush on you Ferns ( well duh I mean who doesn’t ?) I admire your courage in setting your goals and not compromising it one inch that takes bottle and it’s a quality of yours that I’ve admired in your writings and our chats. You are a quiet pillar of your own strength in so many ways never doubt that.

    Coug

    Me ? I’m a brash,self opinionated, noisy pillar of general nuisance in case you were wondering

    1. *smile* Thank you for the very kind words, Coug.

      And I WAS wondering: I appreciate you clearing that up, though I didn’t see any reference to your perfect arse in there!

      Ferns

      1. “though I didn’t see any reference to your perfect arse in there”
        Everybody who needs to know does I think by now *grins* But I meant every word about you Fern too
        Coug

  2. I think that becoming vulnerable is an exquisitely liberating experience with the right person. To open myself completely and then be accepted “as is” would be the highest form of validation because it means that the real inner me, the secret me, has been found to be a worthy thing by someone I care deeply for. Being vulnerable means finding closeness, trust, and the comfort of knowing that I am “good enough”. The one to whom I become vulnerable becomes like an empty canvas on which I can paint my hopes and dreams without fear of rejection or ridicule.

    Granted, it needs to be done slowly, and cautiously over time as there are emotional perils involved, and I have found that every so often, I let too much much out at the wrong time, or to the wrong one. But, while it has failed any one of a number of times, I will continue to try because any journey worth taking has perils but the completion of it brings rewards that make it worth the risk.

    I had not considered becoming vulnerable so much an act of courage as it is the satisfying of a primal urge, the seeking and finding of something precious, and the completion of a journey. When I can finally allow myself to trust my innermost being to the safe keeping of another, I am home.

    1. “… it means that the real inner me, the secret me, has been found to be a worthy thing by someone I care deeply for.”

      I think this hits the crux of it: the fear that if someone REALLY knew us, they might not think that we are worthy somehow.

      I found it interesting in Brown’s talk that she said of people who made themselves vulnerable:

      “They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable or excruciating. Just necessary.”

      I think for those who are willing and able to do that as part of how they live their lives, it must become less scary and more ‘a thing I do’. I assume that it must become easier as you do it more.

      I do tend to think we are all on a spectrum of ‘willingness to be vulnerable’, and for some, that’s just their nature (which blows my mind).

      “When I can finally allow myself to trust my innermost being to the safe keeping of another, I am home.”

      *smile* That’s a lovely thought.

      Ferns

  3. I wrote about vulnerability and submission a while back on FetLife, although it was when I was still fairly new. The short version of it is this: for me, vulnerability goes hand-in-hand with submission. I haven’ (hadn’t, now — I did let myself be vulnerable for my ex, and I don’t regret it) allowed myself to be as vulnerable as I want to be, but it is something I really want(ed — again, it was written very early on in my relationship with my ex).

    I’m still seeking out a person whom I can be that vulnerable with. Putting everything out there, and having a partner embrace you because of it, is so fulfilling for me.

  4. I heard that TED talk and it blew my fucking mind and I’ve encouraged TN to listen to it, as well. I agree with you on so much of what you write and I especially dislike feeling vulnerable.

    TN is working on his vulnerability with me and I’m working on figuring out how to set the stage for it to happen more often. I’m slowly figuring it out, but it’s a tough one.

    1. I agree, it *is* a tough one, especially for those who don’t leap courageously into the void with nary a care for their safety. How anyone does that I don’t know.

      I think that my reserve kind of requires a hammering from those who want to throw their vulnerability at my feet to crack it, so I guess in that way, somehow, it works.

      I think the only way to encourage vulnerability from those who struggle with it is to a) try and make it safe and/or b) go there first in a “Look, the water’s warm!” kind of way *shudder*.

      Ferns

  5. So interesting to see you quote Brene Brown on vulnerability. I recently used different quotes from this same program to describe the quest for vulnerability from a submissive’s perspective. Vulnerability is that place “where courage meets fear.” Her use of childhood memories to describe that feeling really resonated with me. Feeling open and naked, wondering if you are going to fall off that very high limb that you just put yourself out on, out of control, free-falling, terrifying, exposed. This is what vulnerability feels like to me. More intoxicating and addictive than any drug I know.

    Great post.

    1. “Feeling open and naked, wondering if you are going to fall off that very high limb that you just put yourself out on, out of control, free-falling, terrifying, exposed.”

      It’s a great description.

      “More intoxicating and addictive than any drug I know.”

      And that’s an interesting perspective on it. I never thought of it that way, but I guess that makes sense. Taking a leap of faith over and over that it will turn out okay *is* like emotional skydiving in a way.

      “Great post.”

      Thanks *smile*.

      Ferns

  6. “Perhaps I feed on his vulnerability like some kind of emotional vampire, and he gets an environment in which he feels safe to express it.”

    I love the way you framed this in describing how you and your partner balance each other. This is how I am with my partners. My partners are normally different from me in many aspects but the difference creates a balance for us both.

    Perhaps you are an emotional vampire in that good way and that is what pulls the vulnerability out of your “prey”. I do believe that is very much how it works for me. I have an eager open vulnerability about me but it is not something that flows like an open faucet. I am not eager vulnerable to just anyone. Only the ones who feed on vulnerability for the good of us both has the ability to turn on that faucet of my emotions. In fact, if the person isn’t able to turn on that faucet of my emotions I lose interest. I need the vampire type that feeds off of me just as I feed off of her because it creates that circle of balance.

    Like the open raw vulnerability you described comes naturally and can’t be faked the vampire feeding personality comes naturally and can’t be faked either. She can’t purposely try to pull out my eager vulnerability. It doesn’t work that way. It is something about HER specifically that automatically pulls it out of me instinctively. It is something about Her (you) that makes me want to fall at her feet and rip my skin open bleeding raw for her to feed. And to me it’s very beautiful when it does happen.

    Respectfully,
    Mysticlez

    1. “My partners are normally different from me in many aspects but the difference creates a balance for us both.”

      I do think the balance aspect is an interesting one. It makes sense to me.

      “It is something about HER specifically that automatically pulls it out of me instinctively.”

      For me, that’s a thing also. There has to be something organic and instinctual about the exchange.

      I’ve been thinking about this more recently, and the thing for me is that we each have to trigger the other *just by being who we are*, not by ‘trying’ to do it. I guess that’s chemistry.

      Ferns

  7. For me it needs to work both ways. While being vulnerable is for freeing from the sub side, certainly, I think it’s important for my dominant to all be willing to be vulnerable too. Perhaps it’s a trust thing, and if they are unwilling/unable to be open with me then I feel they don’t trust me.

    That said, there’s a balance and in general I think dominants are likely to be less vulnerable in general (than subs) so that they can be that steadfast rock for their submissive to latch on to.

    If they were never willing to open up though, it would be difficult.

    -JT

    1. I agree.

      I’ve found that his willingness to make himself vulnerable works to unlock some of *my* willingness to do the same.

      I also know that I really don’t do well with someone who is (like me) reluctant to go there.

      I always say ‘I should write more about that’, and then never do.

      I should write more about that.

      Ferns

  8. Thought provoking post and link! Thanks!

    As a sub, I feel my vulnerablity strongly when submitting. Exposed and unable to hide. And the more intense the activity, the more open and vulnerable I have to be. Or can be, perhaps…

    Perhaps that feeling that I get from being vulnerable outweighs the feeling of fear that I have to deal with in order to do so. Perhaps that is where the magic lies, at the tipping point where the desire to be vulnerable for someone outweighs the fear….and that makes the connection with that person amazingly strong, which I feel as an amzingly strong desire to be submissive for them.

    I wonder if I have been too limited in my previous thinking that my core kink is being under a woman’s control. Reflecting on this, it may be that there is something deeper than the control, and the control is just the way to reach that desired state of being intensly vulnerable…

    1. “Perhaps that is where the magic lies, at the tipping point where the desire to be vulnerable for someone outweighs the fear”

      That’s a really interesting thought, and I imagine it runs the gamut.

      Some incredible men seem to literally be fearless in this. It is completely incredible, mind boggling. It seems like is a kind of naivety, even though it’s really not. They have just decided, for whatever reason, that it’s worth it.

      “the control is just the way to reach that desired state of being intensly vulnerable…”

      I think of a lot of D/s activities as being geared towards ‘opening him up’, which is really saying the same thing as ‘making him vulnerable’, and some things (like pain play) are a kind of ‘cheats’ way of getting there because once you strip away artifice and logical reasoning, you get to raw reaction, there is nothing there *except* vulnerability.

      ‘Control as a way to vulnerability’ could fit there. In my way of thinking, I create a kind of ‘safety zone’ that allows, encourages and *values* vulnerability.

      Lots of interesting thoughts. Thank you.

      Ferns

  9. I love this post. I came to realize at some point early in my explorations into kink that vulnerability – the ability and willingness to make myself vulnerable to another and by another – is at the core of what I do, and why I do it.

  10. Pingback: e[lust] #52
  11. Pingback: e[lust] # 52

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.