“Those who are willing to be vulnerable,” writes the poet Theodore Roethke, “move among mysteries.” Sounds good; reads well on a fridge magnet. But what does it mean to be vulnerable in our everyday interactions?
Ahh, to be exposed to the wind, to possible ridicule, to naked viewing, to seeing and feeling things I’d rather avoid, not show, not let anyone see. Even myself would rather not witness some aspects of me. So why do it; why expose parts of me may be unpleasant to the eye and ear. Why look at parts of my behavior, why open myself to honest feedback, why look in the mirror or at a candid photograph?
“To be vulnerable to the mystery of our life as it presents itself,” says Roger Housden, “requires forgoing our hopes and fears for the future and being willing to taste what is here before us, in all its poignant bittersweetness.”
Dictionary: 1605, from L.L. vulnerabilis “wounding,” from L. vulnerare “to wound,” from vulnus (gen. vulneris) “wound,” perhaps related to vellere “pluck, to tear.”
We read about the notion of the “wounded healer” in Greek mythology (Chiron) and later in the work of C.G. Jung. It raises the question of whether a caregiver—be it a relative, volunteer, or professional—can truly meet someone who’s wounded (spiritually, emotionally, physically) without addressing the inevitable scars of their own lives.
source: R. Housden (2004), Seven sins for a life worth living. New York: Harmony Books, p.23. image: “Wounded Healer” by UK sculptor George Blair.