Vulnerability and shedding armor

September 8, 2016

I was pretty surprised to discover that one of the things required of my studies in Integrated Imagery is nosing around in my own subconscious. Truth is that we all have a lot of stuff hidden away there, like that closet full of good and bad stuff we mean to reorganize one day. I thought I had mine pretty well organized, already, with a healthy focus on the positive. Years of therapy back in the day had been useful in helping me handle the lesions of my past. Vulnerability to that old stuff was a thing of the past, or so I thought. Those lesions were healed.

The word fits. Lesions. Wounds.  Oh yes, I had them. At one point or another, we all have been wounded and we may still. Those wounds are a result of some heavy-duty opportunities to grow and learn.

vulnerabilityChallenges are part of life and facing them, handling them,working through them–that’s how we grow.  I just didn’t expect to be thinking about my life events so deeply at this age as part of my graduate program. Some interesting insights have emerged from this internal work, though, even at this latter stage of life.

This, too, then, is part of growth.

Most of us develop some armor over the years, protective armor that’s meant to shield us from some of blows of life, those spears in the side, knives in the heart, the painful parts of life.  Maybe we don’t recognize the way we keep part of ourselves locked safely away so that it can’t be hurt.



In class last semester, our professor regressed each of the four women in the program individually in class (in front of the others), and also as a group. He also regressed me privately before class began, at my request.  That’s a lot of internal exploration, let me tell you.  After my in-class regressions, one of my classmates said, “If I hadn’t seen that regression I would have never known you had any vulnerabilities.”  The rest agreed.

But I was taken aback.

When I told a BFF about it, she said, “But you KNOW that’s how you present to the world!”

I guess I really didn’t. I mean, I know that people think that, but I can’t understand why because to me, all my vulnerabilities seem obvious.

It made me think about a quick dialogue I had recently about someone we are both acquainted with. Barely.

“I never heard anything back from her,” he said.

I responded, “She’s not a very likable person.”

He agreed.

I thought about her because her exterior is very tough. Super-tough. Masculine-tough. I’m pretty sure that she has no idea how she comes across to the world, just as I don’t and just as most of us do not.  I hadn’t consciously considered that she might be vulnerable and that her rough exterior might be simply a protective shell to safeguard her vulnerability. But now, I did consider that was probably the case.

vulnerabilityThe week after I returned home from all that deep diving at school, something happened that made me come unhinged in a way I hadn’t ever before. I mean UNHINGED. And even as it was going on, I knew exactly what had happened. I had discarded my armor back in Virginia Beach and now, open and vulnerable, something someone had said had hit directly and plunged into a very deep wound from childhood.  The source of the wound was very clear to me as it was happening.  But I couldn’t stop myself from becoming absolutely unglued. It was as if my conscious mind was giving me all the reasons why it was happening, even while my subconscious or unconscious mind was absolutely out of control.

Vulnerability. I don’t much like going around naked and vulnerable, not at all. But that episode was tangible evidence that I’d built up pretty good armor during growing up and that perhaps I had not let go of that particular lesion.

vulnerabilityImmediately, I reached out for help to my closest confidantes and also to my professor, who suggested I think of that lesion like a ghost. That it’s a long-departed event. And that I make a self-hypnosis recording with some specific messages and listen to it each night before bed for a month.

Most of us don’t like messing around in old stuff. It can be painful.  If we’re older adults, we think we should have handled this stuff by now.

Well, maybe we have and maybe we haven’t. Maybe we have some knee-jerk ways of responding to people and things that don’t work in our self-interest.

And maybe, we can change that.

No maybe about it.

We CAN change.

it’s never too late to grow.

24 comments on “Vulnerability and shedding armor
  1. I am a firm believer in that “it’s never too late to grow.” I also know that all of us have a shell around us for protection, so we can retreat there like a turtle when necessary or just wear it out there into the world for comfort. Going in deep seems a bit scary to me, as it should, I’m sure. Kudos to you for taking on this journey, it’s inspiring! And yes, Carol, even though I’ve never met you IRL, I’ve always thought you were so together!

  2. I have kept my childhood locked in a vault- with a shroud. Oh, sure, it formed the way I react to many things. But, there’s no way to let those non-memories (I really don’t remember most, but my brother or an old, old [we ARE old farts now] acquaintance will mention one in passing) hit the light of day and not ruin a month worth of Sundays.
    Oh, but I do remember blowing the dandelions around (and, yes, I was deathly allergic to them….)

  3. Frances D says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I have always thought of you as a person who handles everything perfectly – and that nothing in your life could ever go wrong.

  4. Nancy Fox says:

    It’s never to let to improve. I plan to be a work in progress forever!

  5. Beth Havey says:

    I have my scars but I try to use them to make me a better person.
    Vulnerability can actually make a person stronger. Armor is good, but
    only if you take it off once in a while.

  6. Jennifer says:

    I’ve working to grow from my past experiences for decades! But have also had a bolt out of
    the dark make a laser strike and knock me on my ass. It takes time, but I pick myself up and try to relearn from it. I’m a constant work in progress.

  7. Haralee says:

    Thanks for sharing Carol. It is very interesting and hard work. Yes we can grow, learn from our past and check our perception.

  8. Jessica says:

    I try very hard to keep my vulneralabilities hidden, but I think last year there were just too many and I just couldn’t hold them in and had to ask for help. I am learning from that and trying to be more open and get help sooner,

  9. Diane says:

    My goodness, you always seem so together to me! My Dad always said we just don’t know what’s going on under someone else’s skin . . .
    You may feel vulnerable, but you are even more of an amazing person to me!

  10. Being vulnerable is one of the hardest, yet, important steps we can take to healing. And its a big stepping stone in realizing it’s “never too old to grow” because every season of our lives has that opportunity. This is a great post and speaks right to the core of my recent attempts to become more vulnerable … not only for better connection with external relationships, but more importantly the relationship with myself. Cheers to always growing!

  11. What a powerful experience and great understanding you had Carol. I believe we’re all works in progress and all our parts, beliefs, thoughts, and patterns should be up for review and reconsideration. Vulnerability is a beautiful opportunity to strengthen trust – in ourselves and in others. Wishing you all the best as you continue unfolding all this deep work.

  12. Annie says:

    I like to think of myself as an open person… But I know that the truth is far from that and I’m pretending to be open, most of the time. Because the reality is that I have no idea how to express myself or my feelings…

  13. shari Eberts says:

    It sounds like a fascinating class! Good for you for having the courage to open yourself up to vulnerability so that you can grow.

  14. It is never too late, true. I had a similar experience in the last year, and some major revelations.

  15. sue says:

    I’m guilty of pushing ‘stuff’ down and not addressing it Carol. I feel I need to always put on the positive, motivating persona all the time. If I’m having a bad day I feel guilty as everyone keeps telling me I’m such a motivation and inspiration to them. Basically, I know I am my harshest critic, I know what I’m supposed to do but sometimes it is just too hard. Thanks for a thoughtful post.

  16. Candace says:

    Love this post! I have been a fan of Brene Brown since her first Ted Talk! Because of her inspiration I have decided to “show up”, and my blog has been my avenue for that. I always try to inject something REAL about my experience, and it always requires courage and strength! I honor and applaud you being vulnerable too!

  17. Nellwyn says:

    I had a similar experience in school as well — I had all these vulnerabilities and I had worked so hard to cover them up that I barely new I had them any more! It was really hard to dig into them but I learned so much about myself and was able to start to grow like you say.

  18. Anita says:

    It is amazing how sometimes our own vulnerabilities are not even acknowledged by bus, ourselves. People suppress way more than they acknowledge.

  19. liv says:

    We all have our weaknesses, but I agree with your friend. You project strength – even in your writing when you’re making yourself vulnerable. It’s a rare gift.

  20. steven says:

    I have so much locked away that I have pushed into the deepest darkest parts of my mind.I hope they never come out. It’s tough sometimes, but I just push through. It’s crazy how little things can bring back the hardest of memories too.

  21. Thanks for sharing this experience sorry about the pain that it opened up for you. I have been reading about neural plasticity and how the mind controls the brain. It has been very helpful.

    Bloggers Pit Stop

  22. Tina C. says:

    You know you are so right. I, like Steven, have pushed things so deep. However, the slightest song or smell or even the wind blowing can bring up the hardest of memories. I know there are so many dealing with so much more than I but personal hurts are the worst. And you got it, we can always grow!

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