Peter’s couple therapy blog

On vulnerability part 2.

When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable. Madeleine L’Engle

Steps to increase your ability to be vulnerable and grow

Step 1: Read the material in part 1 and then answer the following questions in your journal:

a. Do you believe that being vulnerable makes you a candidate for personal growth? What are your reasons for this belief?
b. Do you resist or avoid being in a growth situation in which you feel vulnerable? What are some of your reasons for avoiding being vulnerable?
c. What behavior traits illustrate your avoidance of vulnerability?
d. What beliefs lead you to avoid vulnerability and growth?
e. What behavior traits need to be developed in order to be vulnerable and grow?
Step 2: Now that you have identified your avoidance of vulnerability in Step 1, answer the following questions in your journal:
a. What feedback do you get from others in your life that indicates that you resist being placed in a vulnerable position?
b. What are some reasons from your past that account for your avoiding being placed in a vulnerable position?
c. What replacement beliefs do you need in order to allow yourself to become vulnerable to grow?
d. What are some steps you can take to develop new behavior traits that open you to being vulnerable to grow?
e. What are some positive consequences of becoming more vulnerable to grow?
f. What is your action plan for growth in which being vulnerable is essential?
Step 3: Implement the action plan in Step 2. Are you able to open yourself to becoming more vulnerable to personal growth?
Step 4: If you still find yourself avoiding becoming vulnerable to growth, try the following activity:

A Tale of Two People

a. Write a short autobiography, telling your life story from the perspective of another person, one who is closed off from others to avoid being vulnerable.
b. Write a second short autobiography, telling your life history, but this time from the perspective of you freely opening yourself, being vulnerable to grow. Discuss your relationships, work, family and community activities.
c. Compare your stories and answer the following questions:
(1) Which person is more successful in life?
(2) Which person is more appealing to you?
(3) Which person is more appealing to others?
(4) What are the benefits to being either (1) open to being vulnerable or (2) closed to being vulnerable?
(5) Which story is more true of the current you?
(6) Which story do you want to be more true of you?
(7) What steps do you need to take to make the more successful story real for you?
(8) What obstacles stand in your way of achieving the success story?
(9) From whom do you need help in order to achieve your success story?
(10) What changes in your life are necessary for the success story to become true for you?
Step 5: If you find yourself unable to become vulnerable after completing Steps 1 through 4, return to

Step 1 and begin again.

About the Author

James J Messina, PhD, is a licensed psychologist with more than 35 years of experience counseling individuals and families. Messina, who specializes in adult and children psychotherapy, serves as Director of Psychological Services at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa, Fla. He has a private practice in Tampa and is also a member of the American Psychological Association.

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