It reads almost like a children’s poem: First comes vulnerability. Then comes retreat. Next comes a vulnerability storm that compounds on itself until you’re feeling shaky, defensive and on alert for all of the world!
It’s a story we become familiar with as adults. After 18 years of formal schooling on top of the less formal conditioning of people telling us who we are and aren’t (both verbally and by years of reading body-language cues) we end up, at the fresh age of 18, entering the “adult world” racked with mixed messages, insecurities and a delightful menu of specialty vulnerabilities ready to be triggered at any moment.
We’re familiar with vulnerabilities:
- You start a new job that requires you to learn a lot of new things
- You speak up during a meeting
- You tell someone you love them
- You pitch an idea
- You try a new-to-you thing
Vulnerabilities can range from what may be feel small (but still vulnerable) to wide-slam open (feels a little like you could / maybe / should-I-just? crawl into a cave right now). You know the feeling.
But today, I want to talk about what comes after vulnerability: the Vulnerability Storm. This is its own unique reaction to vulnerability because it combines a lot of factors. Let’s get clear about what we’re talking about.
The Make-up of a Vulnerability Storm:
- You placed yourself into a vulnerable situation.
- Someone reacted to your vulnerability in a way that you didn’t process well.
- You feel defensive / angry / resentful for their reaction.
- You start to feel defensive / angry / resentful for being vulnerable.
- You start to feel incapable / dumb about whatever it was you were trying to be vulnerable about in the first place.
- Your past experiences become intertwined with your current reality and now you’re feeling even more insecure / incapable.
- You want to quit or to hide.
- Other things – relationships, conversations, tasks – start to feel stressful and anxiety-filled because now you feel even more vulnerable / incapable / dumb.
- You start reading others’ reactions to you as if they’re fed up or angry at you.
- You want to quit or to hide even more because you have now fully convinced yourself that the world hates you and you’re completely incapable / dumb for trying to do the thing.
Necessary ingredients for a Vulnerability Storm:
- Vulnerable act
- Someone else’s unpleasant reaction to your vulnerable act (verbal or non-verbal)
- Past hurts resurfacing
- Turning against yourself (forgetting your power)
- External factors feeling increasingly irritable
- Wanting to quit
Vulnerability Storms compound – or intensify the negative aspects of – what is already hurting.
First, you were vulnerable and that hurt.
Then, someone reacted poorly and that hurt.
Then, you remember the last time someone reacted poorly and that hurts.
Next, you start reading everyone as reacting poorly and you start to genuinely question your ability and your human-hood.
Finally, you want to quit because you definitely should because everyone hates you and your lack of abilities anyway, right?
Vulnerability storms whip themselves up fast! When you find yourself in one, you’ll become exhausted quickly because your system is working on overload searching for, reinforcing, and compounding all of the negatives against you.
You are the only one who truly get yourself out of the storm.
Step one: Recognize you’re in a Vulnerability Storm. Acknowledge its presence and then tell it firmly that it has gotten out of control.
Step two: Find someone who loves you, someone you trust, who can serve as solid ground for you during your particularly whipped up time. Let them help you sort through the stories you’re telling yourself: What is true? What is simply not true?
Step three: Find language around what hurts. Where is the pain in the story? Why is it there? Clarify what’s really happening so that you can start to process – in increments – what is really happening.
Step four: Decide what you need to feel good and to feel strong again. It may be a conversation. It may be large changes like cutting someone out of your life or quitting a job.
Step five: Give your nervous system time to relax. Take a long shower. Have a cup of tea. Fun fact: It takes 2 full weeks of not irritating the wound for your nervous system to fully relax and recover from whatever kicked it into hyper-mode. This may mean blocking someone’s phone or text messages (don’t touch the wound). It may mean communicating your triggers to a supervisor (they can’t touch the wound either). But decide what makes you feel safe and allow your system the time it needs to relax.
Vulnerability storms can really muck up a good week or month or year. Don’t allow it that much power. Now you know how to recognize it and how to pull yourself out of it. You are in the driver’s seat of your own life. Let me see you drive!
Sheena Jeffers is a Wellness Lifestyle Coach helping clients design balance, boundaries and sustainable methods of flourish for their daily lives. Schedule a session with Sheena today and watch your life change!