Emotional vulnerability

10 November 2020

What is emotional vulnerability and why is it so difficult?

Emotional vulnerability is the willingness to acknowledge and express your emotions, especially the painful ones. It is about being honest with yourself and others.

Emotional vulnerability can be difficult because we may have the misconception that expressing our emotions is showing weakness, when in fact the opposite is true. It is often easier to avoid being vulnerable out of fear of being rejected or being judged for reaching out.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity” – Brenè Brown

There are numerous benefits of emotional vulnerability. These include:

  • Reducing your anxiety: If you learn to pause and acknowledge your emotions, you send a different message to your brain and you start training it to believe that difficult emotions are painful but not dangerous (as they will pass) which lowers your physical and emotional reactivity.
  • Strengthening your relationships: Relationships are built on trust and being able to share your emotions will allow for deeper connections, empathy, and support.
  • Improving your self-awareness: It helps to identify unhelpful defense mechanisms and emotional blind spots.

The benefits of emotional vulnerability are clear, but how can we be more emotionally vulnerable?

  1. Learn techniques that teach you how to observe and validate your emotions throughout your day. This includes being able to recognise the emotion you are feeling, observing it and what it means to you, and recognising things that may have contributed to you feeling a certain way. Using skills such as mindfulness may help to develop this technique.
  2. Reach out through therapy or counselling.
  3. Practice positive self-talk such as “I am capable and strong”, “I am proud of myself for trying”, or “I am capable of recognising my emotions”.
  4. Express yourself using assertive skills. This means that you remain respectful of others, but are able to share your thoughts and feelings openly and honestly. Listening actively, maintaining self-control, accepting responsibility, and encouraging others to be open and honest are all parts of being assertive.
  5. Practice emotion-focused journaling. Click here to learn more about journaling

Practice emotional vulnerability with those close to you and encourage them to do the same. You will see the benefit in the quality of your relationships, your own emotions and mood, and being able to respond appropriately to difficult situations.

Written by:

Yushmika Chotoo, Occupational Therapist, Akeso Randburg – Crescent Clinic

Ashleigh Forman, Occupational Therapist, Akeso Randburg – Crescent Clinic