It is often said that human beings are inherently vulnerable, and this is something that can’t be denied. Yet, this doesn’t mean that one is able to embrace this; as they can end up doing everything they can to come across as though they are invulnerable.
The image that they present to the world will be one of strength and of always having everything together. This is not just going to be something they portray to ‘strangers’, it is also likely to be how they come across to the people they know.
On one side, this will allow them to protect themselves from what they believe will happen if they were to open up, but on the other, it is going to create a lonely existence. The people in their life will only get so close to them and this will stop them from being able to experience intimacy.
Yet, although this is going to mean that one is unable to truly reach out to others and to be themselves, it will be seen as the only option that they have. Their primary intention is to keep themselves safe and this may mean that they are generally disconnected from their need to connect to others.
Out of Balance
When it comes to the relationships they have with others, they are likely to be out of balance. What this can mean is that one will attract people who are unable to be vulnerable or to people who have gone to the other extreme.
In this case, it will mean that someone will come across as though they are a victim and that they can’t handle life. As this person comes across as being weak and one comes across as being incredibly strong, they are the perfect match for each other.
This is similar to how a superhero is needed to save a human being in a film; in this case, each person is at a different level. But while this is the case when it comes to a film or a comic book, it doesn’t match up with reality.
When one comes across as being invulnerable, it is nothing more than an illusion. If one comes across as being a victim and acts as though they can’t handle life, it shows that they need to embrace their human strength.
While one will create the impression that they are there to save or to rescue the other, this is not going to be the complete truth. Although they will be there for them, they will do everything they can to keep the other person in the same position.
During the moments where the other person opens up about how they feel and shares what is taking place within them, it could cause one to criticise them. The reason for this is because it reminds them of what they have disconnected from.
As a result of this, they will need to shame the other person for how they behave. If one was to get back in touch with what is taking place within them and to feel comfortable sharing it, they wouldn’t need to behave in this way.
There is also the chance that they will do everything they can to keep this side to themselves, and end up criticising the other person in their mind or to other people. But while one is criticising others for opening up, it is a reflection of how they speak to themselves and how they would expect other people to respond to them if they were in the same position.
All in the Same Boat
If some human beings were vulnerable and some weren’t, it would be easier to understand why there is a difference in how people come across. Yet, as we are all in the same boat, it can be hard to understand why some people find it so hard to embrace their vulnerability.
When some people open up and share what is taking place within them, it is going to feel uncomfortable but it is not going to be something they need to feel ashamed off. However, there are going to be other people who are unable to do this, and this is going to be because of how ashamed they feel.
What this comes down to is how the need to look strong all the time and be invulnerable is just a mask. It something they have developed in order to hide how they feel at a deeper level.
If one was to drop the mask and embrace how they really feel, they are likely to feel as though they are worthless. Here, one is not going to feel as though they are like other human beings, they are going to feel as though they are less-than human.
In this case, opening up is not going to be something that allows others to see that they are simply human, it will be something that allows other people to see how inherently flawed they are. Based on what is taking place within them, it is going to be normal for them to do everything they can to stop other people from finding out the ‘truth’.
What this shows is that one is carrying toxic shame within them, and unlike healthy shame that comes and goes, this will have become one’s identity. It is an inner state that is incredibly painful to feel and it will cause one to go into a state of collapse.
Where Does It Come From?
Due to the effect it has, one can either become overwhelmed by how they feel and come across as someone who acts as though they have no value or they can disconnect from how they feel and end up coming across as shameless. When this happens, one will act as though they are better than others, among other things.
The reason one has ended up being defined by toxic shame is likely to come down to what took place during their childhood. This may have been a time where one has neglected and/or experienced some kind of abuse.
In order for one to get in touch with how they feel, it may be important for them to seek the assistance of a therapist and/or a support group. Through their support, one will be able to tolerate their toxic shame until the charge begins to discharge.
The external support will also allow one to be affirmed and to realise that there is nothing wrong with them. This may also be a time where one will need to grieve their unmet childhood needs.
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Oliver JR Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.