I recently came across two wonderful TED Talks given by Dr. Brené Brown, who has spent much of her career researching shame and vulnerability. She is a great speaker, and I highly recommend listening to what she has to say.
Dr. Brown talks about our need, as humans, to “be connected” to one another. That’s really what it’s all about. In order for these connections to happen, we have to first believe that we are worthy of belonging, of being loved. We have to embrace our imperfections and let go of shame. Dr. Brown eloquently expands on this topic here.
Also, if our quest to “be connected” is going to be successful, we have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; be able to “put ourselves out there.”
In other words, we have to embrace living with uncertainty.
Once again, I am reminded how many of the challenges faced by those with obsessive-compulsive disorder are the same that we all confront. It is the severity of the struggle that differs. Who among us could not relate to feeling vulnerable?
Dr. Brown explains that, as a society, we tend to do everything we can to avoid feeling vulnerable. She says, “We numb vulnerability…we are the most in debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in US history.” We mask our vulnerability and see it as a shameful weakness.
Really though, being vulnerable is not about being weak. It is exactly the opposite. It is about having courage; the courage to fail, the courage to forge ahead into the realm of uncertainty. It is about taking a risk and exposing yourself to whatever might be. While being vulnerable can be difficult for all of us, it can evoke paralyzing fear in those with OCD.
But if we can learn to embrace our vulnerability, then we will be able to live “wholeheartedly.” What this means to Dr. Brown is not numbing our vulnerability, but feeling what we feel. Whether it is despair, fear, or hopefully joy and gratitude, there will be no more secrecy or pretending.
For those with OCD, this path to wholeheartedness likely involves Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) Therapy. To me, this therapy is the epitome of vulnerableness (yes, it’s a word 🙂 ). ERP Therapy takes courage and resolve, but by engaging in it, OCD sufferers are working toward what they deserve: a life of authenticity filled with whatever “connections” they desire. Because as Dr. Brown says, that’s what it’s all about.