July 26, 2020

I’ve listened to and read a few interviews lately with people who were talking about what they substitute for vulnerability. All three of them shared that others think they’re good at being vulnerable but really they’re substituting transparency — that transparency is, in fact, a shield to avoid being vulnerable. 

All three of them identify as enneagram 8s. But it made me think about how all of us substitute for vulnerability. 2s can also appear vulnerable, but we’re often substituting reflection — mirroring back to another some shared commonalities so the other person feels they both know and are known. But it is at best selective vulnerability and at worst a misdirection. 

Vulnerability is surrender, and our substitutions are a way of grasping. With transparency, I’m still grabbing for control; with reflecting, I‘m still clinging to belonging; with dismissal, I‘m still clutching for safety. Vulnerability says I may not feel in control, or safe, or accepted — and nevertheless, all is well. More than that, that somehow the control and belonging and safety I want are only available when I stop reaching for them. 

What do you substitute for vulnerability?

What are you reaching for?