A Lifestyle Lesson in Using Vulnerability in Manifestation
Nearly every day for the past two weeks, I've felt like I'm on the brink of a full blown panic attack from which I will never recover.
As uncomfortable as this sounds, I'm actually pretty psyched to be feeling so jittery. About a month ago, I happened to listen to a podcast episode with Eckhart Tolle where he shared he felt the exact same way when he was writing his very first book.
I am, indeed, writing my first book. So I figure if someone as successful and impactful as Eckhart felt absolutely bonkers, I figure my experience can't be that bad.
I'm also doing a lot of other intimidating things like moving across the country (again), saying no to opportunities that don't align with my dreams, and hopping on stage to do karaoke for the first time in ten years.
Everything that's happening in my life feels like a dream come true, so why - you might ask - am I feeling so terrible?
It's actually quite simple: I'm making myself vulnerable as all hell pretty much every damn day and my body learned a long time ago that vulnerability is downright dangerous.
Let me back up and share a prayer I put out into the Universe earlier this year.
I summoned my spiritual guides, pointed to my solar plexus and said, please remove this knot right here.
For most of my life, I've struggled with immense tension right in the center of my body - the kind of discomfort that made my upper body feel completely disconnected to my lower.
Take your hand and find where your ribs meet to form an upside down U, then move down to that open area just below it. This is where your diaphragm lives, the big balloon muscle that flexes and relaxes to inflate and deflate your lungs.
Inhale and you'll feel it contract.
Exhale and you'll feel it relax.
Your diaphragm needs to be strong but flexible to allow air to move in and out of your lungs. This then oxygenates your blood, which basically fuels every part of your body - especially your heart and your brain.
We can live a really long time without food and water, but we humans cannot go very long without our good ole friend oxygen.
When the movement of the diaphragm is inhibited by chronic tension from, for example, a lifetime of holding your breath and biting your tongue or hunching over to make yourself smaller, it becomes tighter, shorter, and wimpier.
This leads to all kinds of problems you might not expect: fatigue, insomnia, back pain, and even acne and other skin problems because there's not enough oxygen to detox your body properly.
I have experienced all of those because my solar plexus has basically been in a sailor's knot for the past twenty years.
But if you'll remember, the last full moon, eclipse, Mercury Retrograde was all about personal power and opening the solar plexus, which is the chakra associated with fire and sun energy.
Well, let me tell you - my solar plexus is wide open now! ☀️
My personal sunshine is empowering me to do all kinds of things I didn't have the energy to do before by releasing all kinds of motivational - sensational energy I've never felt before.
So I am feeling all kinds of new feels and my brain's default lately is to tell me that all these new feels are BAD.
Allowing yourself to feel new feels is at the heart of vulnerability.
If you're one of the millions of people who watched Brené Brown's viral TEDx Talk on vulnerability, you know that her research revealed that vulnerability is the combination of three experiences: uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.
She also shared that vulnerability is a required prerequisite to all the good stuff in life: joy, gratitude, intimacy, belonging, courage... the list goes on and on.
But if you've ever actually found yourself feeling vulnerable, you are probably well aware that vulnerability feels absolutely terrible.
This is why.
Your body is the home of sensation. Your mind is the home of story. And your relationships are the home of signals.
When a situation changes in your life that requires you to adapt (i.e., stress), your body automatically creates sensation to cope with it. Then, your mind makes up a story and you take action in your relationships via signal.
In two sentences, that's your stress response.
You can download the Anne's Atlas app and take the free masterclass to learn more here.
For the sake of today's conversation on vulnerability, let's start with sensation.
Sensations are purely physical experiences.
Hot, cold, tense, relaxed, fluttery, energized, lethargic, heavy, light, itchy, twitchy - these are all sensations.
When we're itty bitty babies, sensation is all we care about. The sensation of gas makes us cry. The sensation of hunger makes us cry. The sensation of a dirty diaper makes us cry.
There's no filter of a story between what we feel in our bodies as sensation and what we signal to our caregivers.
As we grow up though, the mind starts to step in to help you survive.
For example, when you're two years old, you might find that crying makes your dad really angry.
When you're seven, you might find that saying you have to poop makes all the other kindergartners laugh at you.
When you're twelve, you might find that telling the truth to a teacher gets you in trouble.
In any case, throughout your lifetime, your body continues to create sensations, but at some point, your mind learns that some sensations are dangerous to act on and some are safe to act on.
The dangerous ones become BAD and paired with danger hormones in your body (e.g., cortisol, adrenaline, norepinephrine).
The safe ones become GOOD and paired with delight hormones in your body (e.g., dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin).
And the assignment of GOOD vs. BAD is all based on your social circumstances.
When you're growing up, if the people around you can tolerate, accept, and love you when you express a sensation, your brain will encode the sensation as safe and GOOD.
If people instead get upset, withdraw, and reject you when you express a sensation, your brain will encode the sensation as dangerous and BAD.
And this is today's big takeaway: sensations that are encoded dangerous really do feel BAD because the dangerous hormones in your body feel, well, dangerous.
Like, sound the alarm, make all your cells shake, and turn on the panic button bad.
Because your mind tells you the situation is BAD, your brain basically gears you up to fight off a dangerous beast or flee the eff out of there.
It increases your heart rate and breath rate, releases danger hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, and gives you the very real message that you're better off hiding under a rock for the rest of your life.
This is a learned response though - it's not an objective one.
Remember, vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. The same act of vulnerability might feel safe to one person and dangerous to another.
If you grew up in a community where singing, dancing, and being on stage were celebrated, then as an adult, you aren't going to necessarily feel vulnerable singing, dancing, and being on stage. That intense sensation of vulnerability instead will feel exciting and GOOD to you because it's been paired with delight hormones.
But if you grew up in a community where singing, dancing, and being on stage was met with envy, bitterness, and judgment, then as an adult, that vulnerable sensation (uncertainty, risk, and exposure) is going to feel pretty terrible if you decide to sing, dance, and be on stage because the experience has been paired with danger hormones.
If you grew up in a community where standing up for yourself, setting boundaries, and practicing self-respect was celebrated, then as an adult, that experience of vulnerability won't feel bad because of the delight hormones.
But if you grew up in a community where standing up for yourself, setting boundaries, and practicing self-respect was met with messages of selfishness and shame, then as an adult, those experiences will feel very terrible because of the danger hormones.
If we're being technical here, vulnerability isn't actually what feels terrible.
The only reason vulnerability ever feels bad is because your brain believes it's dangerous and releases a flood of feel-bad hormones.
If our culture allowed uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure (vulnerability) to be more associated with safety, social acceptance, and celebration - none of us would feel bad building a business, having a baby, telling the truth, or singing at the top of our lungs because our brain would believe it's safe and we'd all be hopped up on the delightful hormones of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.
The trick to making vulnerability feel less terrible involves teaching your brain that it is, in fact, GOOD and safe.
Next time you're feeling vulnerable, try these three things to help it feel less terrible.
FEEL - Notice the sensations and stories that get triggered.
When you're practicing vulnerability (i.e., uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure) - for example when you tell someone you love them for the first time - simply notice what your body feels like.
Chances are you'll notice hella activation.
Your body might feel fluttery, dizzy, light-headed, and all jacked up.
And you might find your mind making up BAD stories, such as I feel scared, I feel nervous, I feel terrible, this feels awful, this feels wrong.
The reason you're feeling terrible is because your body is flooding you with danger hormones because you've either personally been or observed someone else be criticized, excluded, or shamed for whatever it is you're doing right now.
If you allow your body and mind to take over in their default mode, your mind is likely going to talk you out of doing the vulnerable thing and your body will happily motivate you to hide under your bed for the rest of your life.
Don't try to calm yourself down with deep breathing or other relaxation techniques. When you're filled with this intense energy, that's literally the opposite of what you need to do.
Instead of trying to make the sensation stop, lean into it - do some jumping jacks, run in place, go up and down a few flights of stairs. You're filled with hormones that are trying to get you to move - so move!
This will help discharge some of that excess energy and allow you to move into the next step.
SHARE - Connect with safe people.
The vulnerable thing you're doing isn't inherently bad. It's only bad because you've been connected to people who have taught you that the thing you're doing threatens your connection to them.
To support yourself through the vulnerable thing, you need to connect to people who will teach you that the thing you're doing is safe and deserving of celebration.
When moving toward vulnerability, be sure to have at least one person who appreciates, respects, supports, and celebrates you for taking that action.
It might be someone from your family, but chances are - if you're doing something that no one else in your family has done, you might instead experience similar responses from them as you did growing up. In this case, you're going to need to find someone outside of your social circle.
The good news is that no matter what you're doing that feels vulnerable, there's likely someone on this planet that's psyched to be your cheerleader. It might be a coach, counselor, or members of an online group.
This social connection is absolutely necessary because it's what will teach your brain to stop releasing danger hormones when you're vulnerable (e.g., cortisol, norepinephrine, adrenaline) and instead turn on the delight hormones (e.g., oxytocin, vasopressin, serotonin, dopamine).
Delight hormones feel GOOD, and if you continue to practice this switch from BAD to GOOD, before you know it, the sensations associated with vulnerability will feel like a very good thing.
Special note: If you're doing something that's counter to the white supremacist, cisheteropatriarchical forces of our culture, there are often real - not imagined - consequences to uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. If this is your situation, be sure to connect to a lot of people and institutions that can support you.
For example, file an LLC to protect your business from litigation. Get liability insurance. Join a support group. Find a lawyer. Get a security system. Move closer to family and friends. Put a GPS tracker on your dog's collar.
Protection as a person comes from other people. Sometimes this is family, friends, and confidants. Other times, this means linking up to legislative bodies that will have your back.
ACT - Do the damn thing.
Do your jumping jacks. Check in with your trusted peeps. And then do the damn thing!
And remember, vulnerability is a VERY GOOD THING.
This last step sounds simple because it is.
I know, my own self-sabotaging scripts are always tempted to complicate the action part too...
I don't have the money for that right now...
Online dating is a waste of time...
That will take too long...
That's not going to work for me...
But the truth is, the DOING of the vulnerable thing is actually the most simple, straightforward step.
Just do it.
Uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure are inherent requirements for leading a beautiful human life. Without them, you cut yourself off from the surprising spontaneity required to allow Universal Intelligence to create through you in the unique ways in which you were designed to create.
The mistake we've made as humans is that we've created a culture where our brains are forced to believe vulnerability is dangerous. And when we're flooded with danger hormones, who can blame us all for wanting to stick to the path someone else has laid out before us?
But everything good comes from the intense vibration of vulnerability. It's the only way to fulfill your unique potential and become the highest expression of yourself.
Newness, innovation, and problem-solving sprouts from the seeds of vulnerable sensations, and it is your duty to express your ideas on this earth.
Your heartsong needs to be heard.
If your brain is constantly tricking you into believing that your vulnerability is bad, you will never self-actualize and the whole planet will miss out on your magic.
To make it feel less terrible, lean into the sensation of vulnerability, share your creativity with safe others, and then signal to the universe that you are serious by doing the damn thing.
MAGIC MANTRA: Vulnerability is magical.
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