Emotional vulnerability may be an easy thing to conceptualize, but it can be extremely difficult to implement into daily life. Often when we struggle with an addiction or substance use disorder (SUD), we spend a lot of time being dishonest with ourselves and our loved ones about the issues we’re facing. Due to this, practicing emotional vulnerability during recovery can prove to be an even greater challenge. However, learning how to be vulnerable is an integral aspect of the recovery process that everybody must overcome. By being vulnerable, we open ourselves up to establishing connections and facing truths about ourselves that are necessary for emotional healing.
What Does It Mean to Be Vulnerable?
When thinking of vulnerability, we often think of opening ourselves up to injury or pain; to a certain extent, this is true. We often build coping mechanisms in order to hide from our painful feelings or flawed character traits so that we simply don’t have to acknowledge them. After all, it’s much easier to pretend we don’t have a problem than to actually address the problem.
However, being vulnerable means opening ourselves up to these more difficult parts of ourselves and having the courage to face them. With this comes the courage to share these parts of ourselves with others and be receptive to criticism. When we’re able to share these issues with others in an honest way, growth and healing can begin. While it may seem counterintuitive, showing vulnerability is one of the truest displays of emotional strength.
Benefits of Vulnerability
There are a plethora of ways in which practicing vulnerability in our daily lives can benefit us. Practicing vulnerability in recovery is even more essential. While it’s impossible to list all the reasons emotional vulnerability is essential to recovery, here are a few:
#1. Vulnerability Allows Others to Help Us
If we break our arm and never tell anyone, that wound will likely worsen with time and may cause even bigger problems. Instead, if we recognize that there’s a piece of us that needs time, care, and attention to fix, then we can get help from a local doctor and solve the issue.
The same goes for our emotions. When struggling with addiction or a mental health issue, we often hide it from others out of shame, guilt, or plain denial. When we do this, we never get the help that we need and deserve. If, instead, we communicate our struggles with friends, family, and professionals, then together we can take steps to get us back on the right path.
Often, recovery is a scary and difficult process, but it’s not one that we have to go through alone. However, when we lean on others for support, we must ensure that we’re treating them and ourselves fairly by being open, honest, and vulnerable.
#2. Vulnerability Helps Us Understand Ourselves
Keeping emotions bottled up inside causes them to fester and spill over in unwanted ways. Often, a lack of an emotional outlet can lead to displays of aggression, depression, and anxiety. However, if we have a support group that we’re able to turn to when we’re dealing with issues or complicated emotions, we can better express ourselves.
By articulating our emotions, we’re able to better understand them and gain a certain power over them. Even if our problems aren’t immediately solved, just acknowledging them can help us to feel more at peace.
#3. Vulnerability Strengthens Relationships
Whether the relationships are personal, familial, romantic, or otherwise, vulnerability is a key part of establishing strong, lasting relationships. If we spend our time being dishonest with those who are there to support us, we’ll never be able to establish a true, lasting connection with them because we won’t be presenting our true selves.
Support from loved ones is crucial in recovery. Due to this, it’s important that we treat those relationships with the respect that they deserve. Always being honest about our feelings can help foster lasting bonds that will get us through the toughest times.
#4. Vulnerability Helps Us Stay Sober
In addition to strengthening our relationships and understanding our feelings better — both of which are crucial to staying sober — vulnerability also helps us stay sober by helping us keep a healthier state of mind. If we allow our personal issues to fester, we tend to self-isolate and often experience depression or anxiety. This, in turn, may cause us to turn to substances to cope with these feelings of isolation. By communicating our feelings and practicing vulnerability, we find other ways of processing our issues without the need for substances.
How Can I Be More Vulnerable?
While the benefits of being vulnerable are overwhelmingly positive, the truth is that it’s often easier said than done. The good news is that, for most people, it gets easier with practice and time. As we practice opening up to ourselves, to our mental health professionals, and to our loved ones, the more easily we learn to communicate our feelings and accept help from others. It won’t happen overnight, but actively trying to be more honest when honesty is asked of us — and even when it’s not — will make us more emotionally secure and confident about sharing our feelings.
A great way to kickstart the process of practicing emotional vulnerability is through journaling. Journaling allows us to practice vulnerability on our own terms, free of the fear of judgment. Through journaling, we can practice being honest about our emotions without worrying about what others might think. We also choose the topics that we discuss, meaning we don’t have to delve into overly difficult emotions until we’re ready. By journaling regularly and practicing vulnerability in that medium, we can build the skills and confidence necessary for being vulnerable with those that love us. It’s then that the healing power of vulnerability truly presents itself.
Practicing emotional vulnerability is a difficult but essential aspect of recovery. It can be hard to be honest with ourselves and others about the things that we’re struggling with. However, if we never explore these emotions with those who support us, we won’t be able to work through them in a healthy way. By practicing vulnerability, we can strengthen our relationships and be better prepared for the difficult road to recovery. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we understand both the difficulties and importance of vulnerability, and we’re here to help. If you would like to learn more about how our team encourages vulnerability, call our professionals today at (760) 492-6509.