The Power of Vulnerability

In our most important relationships, the ability to be vulnerable can make a world of difference.

We usually work very hard to hide it. We present the image that we have it all together, that we are in control. Wesocial media want to appear strong. We are afraid of vulnerability.

Of course, this makes sense. Being vulnerable means that we take off our emotional armor, that we let down our defenses and that we can be more easily hurt. Sometimes, this is wise. There are hurtful people out there. There are some people we shouldn’t trust.

The problem is that we also tend to avoid vulnerability in our most important personal relationships. When our loved ones hurt us, we become defensive and try to protect ourselves. We don’t consciously decide to do this. It’s a knee-jerk response.

There are two ways that we avoid vulnerability. We become angry or we withdraw. When we’re angry, we are not vulnerable. We are protecting ourselves or defending our position. Our words, facial expressions and body language tells the other person to back off.

The second way to avoid vulnerability is to withdraw. We can withdraw physically by staying away from the other person altogether, spending time away from home or just going into a different room. We can also withdraw emotionally, where we remain physically present, but emotionally disconnect. We can just not talk, or say as little as possible. Either way, we avoid being vulnerable.

Unfortunately, our attempts to avoid vulnerability wounds the relationship. When we are angry, the other person feels attacked, judged or disapproved of. When we withdraw, the other person feels that we don’t care. They respond to their hurt by withdrawing or acting angry, thus forming a negative vicious cycle. Over time, the relationship can be destroyed.

So, what happens when we deliberately make ourselves vulnerable to the loved one? When we express hurt, rather than anger or withdrawal, we get a totally different response. Think about it. When your loved one shares that you hurt them, without anger or withdrawal, your automatic response is to reach out to them and make them feel better. You want to make it right. This would most likely be their response to your hurt as well.

We tend to associate vulnerability with weakness. Actually, it’s the exact opposite. It takes courage to be vulnerable. It takes strength to take off your armor, and allow the other person to see your heart. It goes against our instincts. But, it’s the only way we can truly heal relationship wounds and establish emotional intimacy.

So, when your spouse or loved one hurts you, you have a choice. You can react with anger or withdrawal or you can make a deliberate effort to express your hurt. I think you will find that your partner’s reactions are quite different when you do so.

Small But Significant Gestures

You never know the difference that a small gesture may make.

You never know the impact that you may have on another person. An action that seems inconsequential to you maysmall gestures can make a difference have great meaning for another. Years ago, a retired college professor shared this story with me.

The professor said that she was working her office on the day before spring graduation. A young African-American student knocked on the door and asked to come in. She said that she was graduating the next day and just want to thank the professor. The teacher was a bit confused, then admitted to the student that she couldn’t remember having her in any of her classes. The student said she hadn’t taken any of her classes. The professor admitted that now she was really confused, and asked her why she wanted to thank her.

Now, this was a time soon after desegregation. The student explained that four years earlier, she was one of the first African-American students to enroll in that university. She said that she received many verbal and unspoken messages that she was not welcomed there. The feelings of rejection built until she could take no more. She finally made the decision to resign from the university the next day and go home.

On her last day of classes, she passed this professor in the hall, and the professor smiled. The student noticed the smile and recalled that she had seen that smile every time she passed this professor. She realized that this was one person who did want her at this university.

She didn’t quit the next day. She began to look for those who seemed to want her there, rather than focusing on those who didn’t. Over time, she realized that there were many who were welcoming, but the negative ones just stood out.

She finished her story by pointing out that she didn’t quit, and that she was graduating the next day. She just wanted to thank the professor for a small, but significant gesture.

Most of the time, people don’t make the effort to acknowledge a meaningful gesture, as this student did. We may never know the impact we have had on another person. Never underestimate the power of a kind gesture.

The Dangers of Social Media (Part 4)

It's easier to be cruel when you're hiding behind a computer screen.

This is the fourth and final article on the potential negative effects of social media. In this series, we have discussed cyberbullyinghow too much dependence on social media can impair a child’s ability to read face-to-face social cues, how electronic communication can lead to hurtful miscommunication, and how we can be impacted by the Facebook delusion. Today, we will explore social media bullying.

Cyberbullying occurs when someone uses social media in an aggressive, demeaning or harassing manner. The bullying can include critical comments, spreading rumors or threatening statements. Like other forms of bullying, it can create depression, anxiety, lowered self-esteem, social isolation and even suicide. Cyberbullying Hotline reports that 42% of teenagers with social media access report experiencing cyberbullying over the past year. They reported that 20% of cyberbullied kids have considered suicide because of the bullying, and 1 in 10 attempted it.

Unfortunately, bullying has always been a common experience of childhood and adolescence. The negative impact of bullying has always been tremendous. Social media, however, has added another element to the problem.

The fact that social media communication occurs without face-to-face contact makes bullying easier. The Cyberbullying Hotline survey indicated that 81% of teenagers say that bullying online is easier to get away with. Kids and adults will often say things online that they would never say face-to-face.

Throughout history, aggressors have dehumanized their victims, ignoring their individualization or common humanity. They conditioned themselves, or were taught, to perceive their enemy as less than human, making it easier to take away their basic human rights, including life itself. One example of this was the dehumanization of the Jews by the Nazis.

Social media accomplishes the same thing by eliminating face-to-face contact. You don’t have to look at the face of your victim when you bully them. You don’t have to see the hurt in their eyes. It’s a little like putting a hood on your victim before you execute them. You feel less restraint, guilt or remorse.

Cyberbullying can be quite vicious and devastating to its victims. There are sites where a teenager can upload her photo for feedback. The comments are more often critical and cruel than complementary or supportive. There are also many examples of teenagers actually urging another teen to commit suicide, saying the world would be better off without them. Unfortunately, they sometimes listen to the advice.

Of all the dangers of social media, cyberbullying is the worst. Parents need to monitor social media use of their children and adolescents, as best they can. Don’t be afraid to ask your child if they have been bullied online, and how it impacted them. Try to establish an open line of communication, where they will be more likely to talk to you about abuse. Don’t underestimate the dangers of social media.

The Dangers of Social Media (Part 3)

Social media can help us connect with friends and loved ones, but beware of the Facebook Delusion.

This is the third article in a series on the dangers of social media. In the first two articles, we looked at how a dependence on electronic communications can impair out ability to read social cues and how it can createsocial media miscommunication. Today, I want to address what I call the Facebook delusion.

Human beings have always tended to compare themselves with other human beings. Whether we like it or not, we measure ourselves by those around us. We compare our possessions, our relationships and our life circumstances with others. Unfortunately, these comparisons often impact our moods and our perceptions of life.

The problem with this is that many Facebook users have exceptional, extraordinary, wonderful lives. At least it seems that way. People post photos of their amazing vacations, exceptionally loving spouses and general good fortune. And of course, all their children are well above average.

Far too many people read these posts and conclude that their lives are sadly deficient. Their reactions may be jealousy, anger, depression or lowered self-esteem. They wonder why their circumstances can’t be so good. They question what they have done wrong.

In the days prior to social media, a similar phenomenon occurred at Christmas. People would drive by houses decorated for Christmas, and imagine that Perry Como was roasting chestnuts in their fireplace. This was one of many factors that increased the incidence of holiday depression. holidays.

The perception wasn’t true then, and it’s not true now. Such comparisons are false. We all have lives filled with good and bad. It rains on everyone’s parade at times. Your friends on Facebook are just celebrating their good times. It doesn’t mean they don’t have hardships just like you.

Of course, there are also many positive aspects of social media. Facebook allows us to connect with family and friends. Other social media like Skype and Google Hangouts give us video calls so we can see loved ones while talking with them. Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram provide instant connection. We can share life events with those we love. We can feel a bit closer to those who live far away.

So, when you are tempted to compare your life to the posts on social media, remember the Facebook delusion. Remind yourself that your friends experience good and bad times just like you. Congratulate your friends on their good times, support them in their bad times, and enjoy the ability to connect.