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Vulnerability...

Discussion in 'General Support and Advice' started by I'mStillStanding, Mar 2, 2019.

  1. I'mStillStanding

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    This word has popped up in a few threads and is just bringing up some thoughts for me. Maybe it’s the fact that I realized how guarded I truly am with my emotions in therapy at the end of last year... maybe it’s the fact that I’m rewatching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and totally understand Lisa Vanderpump’s approach to things (don’t judge me for watching the show)! But why are people so critical of us who are guarded?

    I overshare details about my life. I’m very open about my sex life, my family drama, my divorce, my childhood sexual abuse, loss, illness, etc. This often makes people feel I’m not at all guarded. The problem is, I share these things like I’m telling a story. Reading a history lesson maybe a better description. I’m very detached from the actually emotional side of things when sharing. I use words like kinda sad, frustrating, angry, etc. Then follow up with it is what it is, or what you gonna do, etc. These are really just ways to keep people from asking me too many questions about my feelings on things. Now when it comes to others, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I am totally fine with sharing emotions for someone else.

    I guess the thing is, and this is what gets me, people don’t wonder why we a guarded. They just assume we are cold or not very deep (and that’s only those who look close enough to realize, and honestly most people don’t with me only a hand full of people). Being raised in the south we were taught to keep personal problems personal. When they are resolved you can share them, but they must be resolved! Otherwise your adding fuel to the fire when you speak publicly about it. This is part of the reason for my wall. The other is the abuse, family illness and loss. I’ve had to be independently strong, keep my emotions in check, and not be a burden to my family emotionally. When you do this for so long, you just get use to tending to yourself. The idea of being vulnerable for someone else is absolutely terrifying. I’ve let my walls down a little before and never felt good about it! There’s always been some push back and finally it’s like what’s the point. I mean even in therapy I have issues letting go of control of my emotions. The last three years my therapists have all made comments on this. How the second I realize I’m starting to “show an honest unfiltered emotion” on any personal issue I immediately stop, take a breath, make a joke, and then go back to discussing the issue in my usual detached manner!

    There’s really no point to this thread, I don’t guess. Just my rambling thoughts. I just wish people wouldn’t judge those who are guarded. I mean I don’t see being vulnerable as being weak, it’s actually the opposite. I see it as being very strong. So why should guarded be seen as such a horrible thing? I mean it just is what it is...
     
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  2. Devil Dave

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    I don't have a problem with men being guarded, I have a problem with men ignoring me. And it's happened a lot of times where I've met a man who has shared some deep personal stories with me and I've started to feel like there could be a connection forming between us, and then I don't hear from him again. Why was it OK for you to open up to me about your personal life when we last met, but now you can't even be bothered to catch up with me and let me know how you're doing?

    It means something to me when a man tells me things about his life. I don't believe in prying into people's personal affairs and feelings if they are not comfortable with it, and I am quite happy to change the subject. But I can only assume that these talks I've had with these men didn't mean as much to them as it did to me. And I also assume that they don't see me as someone they want to have these discussions with, they just want someone to have a bit of fun with, and I obviously wasn't fun enough for them. Now, it's not nice when I make these negative assumptions about myself and why men won't stay in touch with me, but when a man is so guarded that he can't even give me a simple rejection, then all I have to go on are negative assumptions.

    My straight friends respect me for being honest about my feelings and flaws and sharing things about my life, but I don't feel that kind of respect from fellow gay men, and there could be a lot of other reasons why I don't appeal to certain people, but I think lack of vulnerability is part of it. I spent long enough hiding my honesty when I was in the closet, when I'm around people I care about now days, I want to let it all out.
     
    #2 Devil Dave, Mar 3, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019
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  3. I'mStillStanding

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    Well it’s not ok for someone to do discard someone that way. I mean if your no longer interested in pursuing something say that don’t ghost. I like to try and figure out why people do what they do. I can come up with two possibilities here. 1) They shared more than they intended and are now extremely uncomfortable. Rather than addressing it they hide. It’s very possible. Honestly, I hide from everyone when I’m struggling with my depressions (like I have been for the last year or so). All my friends, most of my family. I only see who I have to. I don’t want to be asked what’s wrong, I don’t think I can trick those who know me best. They’ll know my smile is fake and I don’t want to have to dive into my emotions! It’s a flaw and I’m working on it! 2) They are total assh***s.

    I don’t think ghosting someone generally is connected to being guarded. Some people really say what ever to get what they want, and then they are out. Some people don’t discuss what they won’t and one wants a hook up, while the other wants a relationship. This is really not ghosting as much as communication break down. Now personally I don’t like to be rude to someone. So I try and let them down easy. But if I’m not interested at all, I’ll tell them I’m really more looking for a friendship. I love making new friends and just because I don’t want to hookup or date doesn’t mean I don’t want to get to know the person more.

    I get that you don’t want to hide in the closet. I’m not gonna hide my sexuality either. I also think part of the community tries to keep things surface because of all the trauma from their pasts. Some are scared if they unpack it they come completely apart. That’s why I’m open about the events... it’s the emotions I guard lol I generally don’t have an unfiltered thought honestly, on the other hand I normally don’t have an extreme emotion that has not been ran through filters to make sure they are appropriate and I’m comfortable sharing them.
     
  4. OGS

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    I've actually given a fair amount of thought to this thread and am trying to figure out how to answer the most diplomatically. I don't know that it's really an issue that has another side, but I'll try, nonetheless, to represent the other side.

    I'm one of those guys who is quite open. I let people in early and often, and I frankly expect it from anyone who is going to be a close friend or more, and if they just won't let me in, yeah, I move on. The thing is, while I can certainly see where you are coming from ImStillStanding, in some respects it just doesn't matter. If someone isn't going to let me in, they aren't going to let me in--the why of it is interesting and it isn't that I don't wonder, but it doesn't actually change a lot. Plus, the more guarded you are the more difficult it's going to be to get to the why. I mean what are the odds someone is super-guarded about everything except the thing that made them that way? And yes, I totally believe that many people who have all their barriers up would be well worth the effort to make it through all the barriers, but the problem is all the things that would tell me it would be worthwhile are behind the wall.

    If we were trapped on a deserted island I'd probably take a shot at making it through all the defenses, but time is finite and my life doesn't contain a lot of deserted islands.

    Hopefully all the artificial walls set up in a place like this--I mean we don't actually even know who anyone is here--will allow you to practice dropping some of your internal walls.
     
  5. I'mStillStanding

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    It’s funny, because until December I would never have described myself as guarded. Even though therapist have suggested I was most of my life (of course I didn’t “realize” I was gay till tree years ago even though I’ve always known and everyone had always said it and a couple weeks ago I wouldn’t have said I struggle with a possible eating disorder because I’m fat and tend to not see things right in front of me even when people point them out). My mind really does block out things in a very strong and real way. Then out of no where it’s like the curtain falls and I’m standing there like oh! It sounds weird but it’s always been that way, since the first time I was abused sexually actually. I told my grandparents and mom. Then had to tell cops and counselors and everyone. Well I stopped talking about it and everyone thought I just didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I actually blocked it out. Well I was 18 cooking and the memories flooded back! It was a mess! It was similar with realizing I was gay... it just hit me in the face!

    I’m an open book! Here and in my real life, with facts lol not emotions. I sound like a robot... I swear I’m not. Literally my family thinks I’m too sensitive when it comes to what other people are going through.

    In all honesty, there was thread about deal breakers. Being gaurded or not open was one that seemed to be repeated often. I don’t think most people would consider me that way at first... it takes time to realize. But it’s kinda weird because I’ve always thought my personality and how I am with my partner is the only thing going for me. I’m not ready to date because I’m not where I want to be with weight or in my mental health... now to realize that my fear, I uncovered recently in therapy, of letting someone else have my heart is such a deal breaker... I’m kinda screwed! For now... I mean again I’m working on it, but I just don’t know how to depend on someone else emotionally...
     
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  6. OGS

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    I think it's pretty common for people who were closeted to be pretty closed off. I mean the experience of the closet is a process of shutting down a part of yourself, often even from yourself. The idea that anyone could be closeted and truly genuine and open is, to some degree, a contradiction in terms. And you can see it in so many people who are newly out--they're there and they're out and speaking their truth, but their hearts are tucked away securely where people can't get to them to hurt them. Oftentimes some of the loudest and most flamboyant are those who are the most guarded. But I think the good news is that it heals in time. For me it was pretty immediate upon coming out. My Mother was physically ill for a week when I came out, but the next time she saw me (several months later) she had to admit that, as she put it, it was like I was finally "really there." She'd never really been able to see that I wasn't before but with this to contrast it with it was clear I hadn't been. I came out at twenty-one. Even if you say the closet started at 8, I've been out twice as long as I was in, and it makes sense to me that the longer you were in the closet the longer it would take to recover. Cut yourself a bit of slack, and then keep working at it...
     
  7. Devil Dave

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    There probably isn't a connection, but there is that situation of someone not wanting to share things with me and open up to me.

    When I was younger, people always said I was too shy and didn't talk enough, and when people pointed out to me how quiet I was, I would think of myself as boring and should just not bother trying to mix with people. In more recent years, I've found that I do love being around people and I love to be chatty when I'm in good company. And when the company is really good, i like to bear my soul a little and talk about my low points and how I overcame them and accepted things about myself that I didn't like before.

    And so when I go from feeling appreciated by someone to being discarded by them, it does bring back those unpleasant memories I have of myself, when I felt awkward and unworthy of people. If someone won't let me in even a little bit, then it makes me think I'm still getting it wrong.
     
  8. I'mStillStanding

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    I too was extremely shy. I am actually still very uncomfortable in public setting but force myself to be the social butterfly. It’s easier to entertain the crowd than it is to feel interrogated. That’s actually something I don’t want to change. I like being social, even though it makes me uncomfortable.

    And one excuse I’ve always used as to why I don’t share my emotions about my personal issue with others is everyone’s got their own problems. I don’t want to burden someone else with my emotional baggage, I’d rather try and help them with their load you know. I guess maybe I unworthy to have help with my stuff?!

    @OGS cutting myself slack is something I’m working on too. I kinda expect perfection from me! Maybe it’s the middle child syndrome I don’t know lol
     
  9. Chip

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    So the seeming contradiction between being cold and detached, but still describing everything in a detached way is actually consistent according to the research on shame and vulnerability.

    When you have grown up in an environment with abuse and a message that talking about feelings isn't OK unless they are resolved, what you really get is a message that your feelings and your needs don't matter, and won't be taken care of. And when this is further complicated by the message "You can talk about it once it's resolved", the message you get is "the only safe way to talk about what's bothering me is when I've fixed it, and it no longer affects me"... thus the flat affect and detachment when you are describing the story.

    The oversharing is a byproduct of sloppy boundaries in childhood (which goes along with the abusive experiences.) Brené Brown desribes the oversharing as "floodlighting", and the interesting thing is that floodlighting and vulnerability aren't the same... because floodlighting is simply blurting out what's going on without respect to the appropriateness of the environment or situation (again, a byproduct of the boundaries we learn growing up), while authentic vulnerability is sharing our story with those who have earned the right to hear it. "Earning the right" means basically that the person (or persons) have shown themselves to be trustworthy, have shared vulnerable things with you, and have basically sent the message (usually indirectly and nonverbally) that it is safe and appropriate to share with them. Those of us with fuzzy boundaries haven't yet learned what it looks like to share with people that have earned the right to hear it.

    Even for people who are experienced and fluent with vulnerability, I don't think anyone views it as easy. It is always putting yourself out there. Brené has described it as "standing naked on a stage and hoping for applause rather than laughter", and I think that's a pretty accurate metaphor. But if your needs have never been met, if you've gotten the message that you don't share until the issue is resolved, then of course it's going to be terrifying, because when you've done this in the past, it's been rebuked or, at best, not supported and encouraged.

    I strongly recommend that people watch Brené Brown's three TED talks. Each speaks to a different aspect of shame, vulnerability, authenticity, and connection, and I think you'll find that they give a pretty good understanding of why you experience things the way you do, and begin to help understand how to change things. If this connects with you, I strongly recommend the book "The Gifts of Imperfection" which goes into more detail in understanding why we are where we are, and how we change it.

    I hope this helps!





     
  10. Devil Dave

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    Oh, I do have moments where I just don't feel like talking, and if somebody tries to pry it out of me, I will flat out tell them to mind their own business. I can no longer be bothered to be polite and think up excuses!

    One thing I can't stand is when people insist there is something wrong with me. Like, they'll ask if I'm ok, and I say yes, and they say "you're not though, are you?" THAT really gets on my nerves. It actually insults me when people imply that I'm not telling them something, because they know I talk openly about things that bother me, so they should not be implying that I've suddenly started being dishonest. I also have the option to talk at a more apropriate time, so if I haven't said "I'll tell you later" then it's probably not something worth fussing over. Some issues really do sort themselves out.

    I already created another thread talking about how I hate it when people tell me to cheer up. There's no need for it. Ask me how I'm feeling, sure. But don't tell me how you think I'm feeling or how you think I should be feeling. Especially if I'm at work, because I have a ton of jobs that need my attention, and that's probably what my mind is focused on, not what people think of my current mood.

    And, you know, if I want to be miserable, I'll be miserable. That's my choice. You're not going to make me feel better by denying me my right to be a miserable bastard for twenty minutes. If I think you seem down about something, I will ask "is everything ok?" and if you say "yes I'm fine" then I'll leave it at that. You don't have to be bubbly and chirpy with me all the time, I know it takes a lot of energy to be like that, so as long as you carry on being respectful towards me while you're in a mood, we've no need to pester each other.
     
  11. I'mStillStanding

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    I totally feel the only safe way to talk about things is when they no longer effect me lol so that’s right on.

    I’m gonna reserve comments on floodlighting, because I do feel I respect boundaries. Or at least try to. I mean generally speaking if I cross them it’s very intentional, I’m wanting to push the person buttons (family or some friends). If I cross it unintentionally I feel awful and have to apologize right away. So I’m gonna need to too look more into this to have a more accurate view, as it pertains to me, but definitely will.

    I’ve actually watched one of her Ted talks. @smurf recommended it, and I’ve got the others marked. I’ve not watched and should... now that I’m back in therapy I probably will. I won’t have to worry spending like hours and hours picking myself apart if I watch it then go to therapy to discuss it lol...
     
  12. I'mStillStanding

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    I hate this too! I mean if I see someone clearly not ok and I ask them, and they say I’m fine... I always say something like... ok it’s none of my business but you seem like something is on your mind if you wanna talk about let me know :slight_smile: and keep it moving...

    I hate when people won’t take the hint though. If I say I’m fine, you ask again and I look at you and say no really I’m totally fine... consult your ISS to English dictionary because that means stfu and walk away! But if that happens I know I got to figure out how the mask is slipping... go fix it and come up with an excuse. Haven’t had my coffee... starving... I need a man... and I’m not gonna lie so if none of those are true I’ll go with the classic I was in desperate need of chocolate and I’ve got my fix lol because I mean for real is there ever a time where we don’t need chocolate!
     
  13. Chip

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    Or... you could actually consider letting someone in to what you're experiencing, which would help you resolve it. :slight_smile:
     
  14. Devil Dave

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    I usually feel better after someone makes me a cup of tea.

    The thing is, normally when someone asks me whats wrong, there isn't actually anything wrong, I'm not being grumpy, I'm just being calm and focusing on something. Once I've got whatever it is I'm focusing on out of the way, then I may go back to being cheeky and cheerful. That's how I function, I get the important stuff out of the way then start relaxing and having a laugh.

    Now if you were to see me getting angry and stressed out and punching things and slamming doors and throwing things and being abusive to people, THAT is when someone should have a word with me and ask what is wrong and tell me to chill the fuck out, because that sort of behavior is completely out of character for me. Being quiet and focused is completely natural for me.

    I used to work with a guy who was a great guy I got along with, but every week he would ask me "what's wrong, you don't seem your usual cheery self" and I had to point it out to him in small words that you say that to me every week, so how can it not be my normal self? You know by now that I have moments where my mind is on the work and once its finished then I'll start having a laugh with you. He got the hint eventually and stopped asking, it was just in his nature to make idle chatter in every situation, which made him good at his job in some ways but a pain to work with in others, but thats ok, because I can't expect perfection from everyone I have a good friendship or working relationship with.
     
  15. I'mStillStanding

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    That’s what I’m working on for sure. It’s not that easy of thing for me. I am the upbeat guy who always keeps everyone smiling, the shoulder to cry, or the person to call if you need something. I don’t like the idea of someone else having to be burden with my issues.
     
  16. I'mStillStanding

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    See this would be an extreme emotion. So if I was to ever do that then I’d be on the edge of butterfly net territory lol
     
  17. Chip

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    Something to think about: Generally speaking, when people have this self-perception, it comes from a place early in life where our needs weren't met, or in some way we got the message that it wasn't OK to show our emotions, but at the same time, we had the responsibilty to be there emotionally for others. If that resonates for you, then one of the ways you begin to open up is to remind yourself that you do deserve to have your needs met, your emotions heard and appreciated. It can take some time, especially if you've spent decades learning the latter, and it will almost certainly be uncomfortable or scary at first... but it is when you are able to make the connection that the message you got as a child isn't valid any longer that it becomes easier.
     
  18. Dionysios

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    You have been through a lot my friend. It's understandable for one to be guarded when one has been hurt and abused in the past. Being guarded is a useful coping and defence mechanism. You are doing what you need to do. You have nothing to feel guilty about. When people gain your trust, then that is a different situation. For the others? Don't worry about them. Take care of yourself.
     
  19. I'mStillStanding

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    First I want to say I love my family (well most of them lol)! We are a very affectionate family, we always say I love you and kiss and hug (even the guys). I didn’t realize this wasn’t a normal thing until recently. So we do have that for sure.

    It’s the negative stuff we have issues. My abuse is something no one ever talked about, it makes everyone uncomfortable and when it has been discussed it’s always about how it’s affected them. Family illness has always been how it affects the one sick and my mom and sister (it was her biological dad) or my mom with her dad... it was not my dad on either so the impact on me wasn’t important. Losing my little brother is always been about mom and then my older brother because he passed on his birthday... with the exception of the abuse I get it. My emotions or the impact of these issues on me really at the end of the day don’t matter. It’s not about me. Yes it affected me but it wasn’t my illness, my loss, etc. I also get how the abuse issue makes everyone uncomfortable and why they don’t want to discuss. Why mom has such guilt and my brother... so I understand why they feel the way they do because of how they are connected into that...

    There have been a few times I’ve shared some things... not just stories but the impact emotionally and the reaction was not good. Why would you do this to? Why would you bring this up now? What’s the point? I’ve even been told I was the reason for mom having a bit of a break down because of me telling her about some abuse stuff she didn’t know and then coming out and I shouldn’t have done it the way I did... I mean I’m not shocked when I was like 10 we were all in therapy and when the therapist asked what the problem was they all said me... it’s a recurring theme that I am the catalyst to issues.

    So the walls come down a bit and then the reaction is awful so they go back up higher and stronger!

    Again I feel like I sound so cold I’m really not... it’s hard to tell on here but I promise I’m not. It’s just when it comes to my personal stuff I’m reserved... everything else I wear my heart in my sleeve...
     
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  20. I'mStillStanding

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    It really is useful. My therapist’s eyebrows hit the ceiling when I said I didn’t want to lose the ability to turn my emotions off because that’s very useful... evidentially turning emotions off and on isn’t a good thing either! Who knew?