Peter Kane – Relationship Theorist and author "The Monogamy Challenge"

Our Vulnerability Makes Us Hypocrites

It is natural and normal for us to feel vulnerable. Our physical existence results in some real safety issues and preferences. Especially when we were young we needed to be cared for to survive. As a baby we feel safer if we feel loved, than if we feel unwanted or rejected. We have needs and preferences and getting them met helps us feel more secure. To feel liked is better than feeling disliked at any age. To have more money gives us a better feeling of power and security than less money does. Our physical and emotional vulnerabilities result in our feeling that to have more love and money would nearly always be a good thing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVulnerability is natural and it is also healthy to allow ourselves to feel it. If we suppress our vulnerability we will likely withdraw to protect ourselves, or brace ourselves against others by being defensive or critical. Being connected to our vulnerability makes us more present and opened to intimacy, and it is a key step toward resolving our relationship issues because it is part of admitting them and sharing about them. Being able to feel and express our vulnerability is an aspect of our strength because it takes true courage to acknowledge the softer side of our being. By knowing our power and our vulnerability or weakness, we are more able to access and express real power because we will not be pretending to be powerful in an attempt to run away from our fear. Seeking or expressing our power alone results in a more one-dimensional compensatory or pushy energy, where as when we are being present with our vulnerability and our strength we are more resonate and authentic. I sum this up with the adage: “our vulnerability is our strength.” It is also a good affirmation: “My vulnerability is my strength.”

This said, it is also valuable to understand a completely different issue; that our natural tendency to focus on our own vulnerability results in a tendency to be self-focused, and that we are then likely to underestimate the impact of our own words and behaviors on our relationships. The natural tendency to be more aware of our own fears results in our concentrating on how another is impacting us, instead of having the self-reflection to address and take responsibility for how we are impacting them and our relationship with them. Thus our vulnerability makes us hypocrites. It is why we have the old adage “We can dish it out but can’t take it.” I also describe this as an aspect of “Garden Variety Narcissism,” by being more self-focused and we tend to see our relationships unfairly and expect others to give us consideration that we are less apt to feel secure enough to give them.

Garden Variety Narcissism negatively effects relationships is a variety of ways ranging from; defensiveness, criticism and contempt; to withdrawing from the other; to judging another instead of owning what we did to create a relationship problem. One aspect of how this operates is that we are so used to our own fear or vulnerability that we no longer question it. We no longer ask ourselves if our fears are valid or based on reality, and instead we just live with our reactions as if they are normal. Our fear becomes the norm and we live, often unconsciously, in a fight or flight mode without questioning our behavior or the assumptions that it is based on. We can become desensitized to our own fear and also to the ways we protect ourselves. We feel threatened, barely acknowledge it, and instead unconsciously move forward with the ways we protect ourselves.

Another aspect of this is we may act as if others should understand this and that we do not mean to be acting badly or that we are only protecting ourselves. Since being aware of our fear or vulnerability is our norm we don’t see ourselves as threatening, and we then judge others for their fear-based behavior without owning how we may have contributed to it. We expect latitude but don’t give it. We don’t give the other latitude for their self-protection based behaviors, or acknowledge that their defensive behaviors may be justified given our behavior.

So how can we begin to work with this? We can nearly always benefit from assuming that we are expecting more consideration than we are giving. We can question if what we think of as and equal 50%-50% relationship may actually be 60%-40% in our favor. This could be applied to all spheres of life including time, money, and love or nurturing given. With relationship conflicts we can assume we have some blind spot where we are not taking responsibility. It will often help us if we slow down and include a deeper awareness of our own actions. (I do not recommend you do this if you have already identified that you are in an abusive relationship. If you are in an abusive relationship, I recommend you remove yourself. People with more serious narcissism issues often use similar rhetoric to keep the focus on your shortcomings and away form their own. Noticing their aggressive tendency to focus on you can help you identify abuse and remove yourself.) If a relationship is not abusive, owning our own part almost always helps the other person open up and face theirs. If they don’t, it is a sign that you are still defending yourself or not giving equal consideration in some way. Often we can change our words and express our feelings more deeply and with better “I” statements but our partner or friend will not shift until our energy underneath our words also shifts.

So lets slow down, look inside, and give more consideration and latitude to others. This is not about being hard on ourselves when we admit our mistakes. We also need to have compassion for ourselves if we are going to let go of defensiveness and have the courage to admit our vulnerability and mistakes.

Here’s to giving equal understanding, consideration, and latitude to ourselves and to others.

Love, Peter

  1. Excellent. Very well said especially the part of being unconscious of the impact on others…

  2. Very good!

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