One of the findings that has always interested me in Dr. Brené Brown’s research is the difference in how people approach vulnerability. For some, when they felt vulnerable they started “dress rehearsing tragedy.” They think of all the things that could go wrong and begin to plan ways to prevent or deal with those fears. Even in positive moments of vulnerability when they felt intense joy or love, they would start fearing the dark. This is me. I can’t tell you the number of times I have planned how I will handle the news that someone I care about has died suddenly. I can be in a moment of intense joy with my kids and all of a sudden I find myself thinking about what I would do if they were taken from me. This fear of the unknown moves me away from fully experiencing the present moment and the vulnerability in that moment. I also know from experience, that all the planning in the world can’t prepare me for the times that really are dark. No amount of planning makes those dark, painful moments less dark or painful. The planning really doesn’t help. It just interferes with really being in a moment of joy. So I was excited to learn in Dr. Brené Brown’s research that there was another way that the Wholehearted responded to vulnerability.
Dr. Brown explains that the Wholehearted still get those shudders of vulnerability. They still look at their sleeping children and get a shudder of the vulnerability of that moment. But instead of rehearsing tragedy, they practice gratitude. They start to name specific things in that moment that they are grateful for. They lean into the vulnerability of that moment by practicing gratitude. I have practiced this for several years now ever since learning about this Wholehearted practice and I can tell you that it one of the main ways I let go of fear and lean into the vulnerability of joy and love. In fact, I did it today. I had one of those beautiful summer days with my kids today and I found myself at one moment listening to their laughter and then all of a sudden the vulnerability of that moment hit and my mind drifted to the dark. I had this flash of fear about something painful happening to one of my children. I took a deep breath and began to name the things in that moment that I was grateful for. “I am grateful to be home with them today. I am grateful to hear their laughter. I am grateful for clouds covering the sun so it is the perfect temperature to play outside. I am grateful they were getting along in this moment. I am grateful for the area I live in and the friends they have.” This practice of gratitude allowed me to stay in that moment instead of imagine a dark future and it allowed me to feel the joy of the moment I was in.
This week when you notice yourself feeling vulnerable, try replacing your fear stories with specific gratitudes for things in that moment and see what happens.