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Trust and Vulnerability

In both one-on-one coaching and in my circles, I do my best to hold to the foundational guideline to not attempt to fix or offer advice to anyone unless directly requested. This allows trust to build, as well as creates the opportunity for the speaker to find their own truth. Parker J. Palmer elaborates in this insightful quote:

The soul is like a wild animal, go gently.  Judi Blum, Somatic Spiritual Doula

The soul is like a wild animal—tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.”

The soul, like a wild animal, may experience vulnerability. Let us then begin with Brené Brown's definition of vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.

In a recent gathering of the Montreal Wholeness Circle, we all did brilliantly well at holding to the principle of avoiding commentary and fixing. As a result, there were deep and moving shares that nourished the group. By the end of our time together, several of us remarked that it is easier to be vulnerable with strangers than the ones closest to us.

This begs the question: Do you have to trust someone first in order to be vulnerable with them? Brené Brown explains that vulnerability and trust happen simultaneously, in a constant exchange of small moments; neither comes before the other. Interestingly, with strangers, the stakes are lower, so the initial trust needed to open up can be easier to muster.

Ever wonder why it sometimes feels easier to be vulnerable with a total stranger than to your closest friends or family? It’s a pretty common experience, and here are some possible interesting reasons behind it.

Less Pressure for Long-term Fallout

When you share something deep with a stranger, you don't have to worry about long-term consequences. If the conversation goes south, you can walk away and never see them again.

Fear of Judgment

Opening up to friends and family can be scary because their opinions matter a lot more. If they react badly, it can really sting. With strangers, their judgment doesn’t carry the same weight, so it feels safer.

Managing Expectations

People who know you well often have certain expectations about who you are and how you act. Sharing something vulnerable can shake up these expectations, which can be uncomfortable. Strangers don’t have any preconceived notions about you, so there’s nothing to disrupt.

Social Masks

We all wear different masks around different people. Dropping these masks to show our true selves can be tough, especially with those closest to us because it changes the dynamic of the relationship. With strangers, you don’t have to worry about this.

Controlling the Narrative

Talking to strangers gives you full control over what you share and what you don’t. You’re not worried about how your story might affect your ongoing relationships because, well, there are none.

So, while opening up to your nearest and dearest can deepen your bonds, the risks of negative reactions and changing dynamics often make strangers an easier bet for those moments when you want to share from your soul. This is why sharing with a coach or at Meetup circles is a wonderful way to get to know yourself better.

And, I am wondering what it might be like to consider sharing the above list with your loved ones and perhaps have a vulnerable and trusting conversation about being vulnerable and trusting. Could it be that they feel the same way? Sounds like a win-win to me.

Trusting and vulnerable conversations. Judi Blum, Somatic Spiritual Coach


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