The Power of Vulnerability

The Power of Vulnerability
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Summary of the Ted Talk
In the talk Power of Vulnerability, Brown, a social worker, and researcher, delves into the
details of vulnerability and how people deal with being vulnerable. As a social worker, Brown
came into contact with people at their most vulnerable, and it puzzled her how people deal with
vulnerability. Brown, like most of us, puts off the emotions that make her vulnerable as she does
not want to deal with that side of herself, but here were people wholly exposed and vulnerable.
As this was a messy topic for her, she decided to research about it and hack it not for self-
appreciation but “to lay the code” for others to see.
Brown decided to start with what brought her to the topic of vulnerability-connection.
Brown was surprised that when she initiated a conversation that would help her understand
connection she was instead diverted to disconnection. For example, when she asked a respondent
about love, the respondent ended up narrating one of their most excruciating heartbreak. The
participants of the research were not ashamed to share their experiences about heartbreaks, about
being excluded and being disconnected. Brown concluded for people to connect; they have to be
seen for who they are; they had to be vulnerable.
The research, with an expected timeframe of one year, spilled over into six years and led
Brown not only to appreciate the concept of vulnerability but also to understand herself; who she
really was. Vulnerability makes one beautiful, it may be excruciating, but it is necessary. We
cannot numb the emotions that we do not want to deal with as this may lead us to numb even
those we want to deal with.
Connection to the Course
The Ted Talk connects deeply with the course content we have been covering in class.
The talk deals with some interesting topic in Psychology including emotions and feelings such as
shame, fear, love, hate, and belonging. I got to understand how people interact with their
emotions and feelings and the effects of dealing and not dealing with them. I also got to
understand the role of psychologists (therapists) in the real-life world. Hitherto, I have had a
general appreciation of the psychology literature, but after watching the talk, I got a sense of the
hands-on experience I will have when I start practicing.
Emotions are central to one’s vulnerable state, i.e., one’s core vulnerability is the
emotional state they do not want to be in contact with or show to other people. Vulnerability
calls for the expression of emotions while invulnerable people suppress their emotions. This type
of vulnerability that is associated with emotion is referred to as emotional vulnerability. The
dominant emotion that is associated with vulnerability is fear. Fear defines the ability of one to
express certain emotional states, i.e. invulnerable people are more fearful of expressing emotions
such as love, the need to connect and belonging.
Also, close related to vulnerability is shame, a feeling linked to the emotion of disgust.
According to Brown, people who were not ashamed of sharing their experiences; who were
ready to get vulnerable could easily connect with others compared to those who were ashamed of
getting vulnerable.
Cognition is the mental process of getting knowledge and appreciating through thought,
experiences, and the five senses. Vulnerability can also arise out of one’s cognitive state.
Cognitive vulnerability is a precursor to psychological problems. It is a cognitive bias, a distorted
train of thought that exposes one to psychological issues. For example, when one undergoes a
traumatic or stressful experience, cognitive vulnerability creates a maladaptive response that
raises the chances of a psychological disorder.
Similarly, we shy away from being vulnerable as a result of a memory that we have from
a past experience. Typically, this happens when an experience of vulnerability resulted in
emotional and psychological distress. Therefore, from that horrific memory, one shies away from
being vulnerable and presents a façade of courage.
Personal Connection
Similarly to Brown at the beginning of her study, vulnerability is a foreign concept to me.
I detest being in a vulnerable position. Although psychology literature states otherwise, I, usually
relate vulnerability to weakness. For example, in all the romantic relationships I have been in, I
usually present a filtered version of myself; a version I believe my partner will be approving of.
As a result, I end up not being fully committed to the relationship and eventually a break up. I
shy away from talking about my feelings and exposing the sentimental side of myself. I believe
that this is exposing my weak side and arming my partner with weapons to harm me emotionally.
However, this assignment has been both paradigm-shifting and eye-opening. I have
appreciated the power and need to be vulnerable. I have come to the conclusion that the idea of
the “diva woman,” who does not expose her emotional side is archaic and should be discarded.
Vulnerability, in a relationship, allows the two to walk through the triumphs and pitfalls of life
and allows both of them to grow and mature psychologically.
Vulnerability, in a relationship, allows us to be ourselves and communicate our
intentions. Being vulnerable allows us to communicate our expectations in the relationship, e.g.,
do we want it to be a casual relationship or a serious relationship. Intentions and expectations are
what sustain relationships. Finkel et al. (2017) term intentions and expectations as the
“relationship-maintenance mechanisms.” Partners who express their expectations and intentions
in the relationship became more committed to realizing those expectations and in the long run,
end up cultivating long relationships with greater bonds.
Communicating my feelings is also another integral component of a relationship that I
have learned from this exercise. As a psychologist or just a plain person, communicating what I
feel will be crucial in my practice and personal life. My clients would like to connect with me on
an emotional level. If they are to open up, be vulnerable and communicate how they feel, I will
have to take the first step. Additionally, in relationships, our partners are bound to make
decisions or engage in certain actions that may not augur well with us. These decisions and
actions may spark a range of emotions within us, and it is only prudent to communicate them
with our partners lest the build-up shatters us from within. Therefore, to engage in these
discourses, we have to be vulnerable and sincere.
In summary, vulnerability will play a key role in both my personal and professional lives.
It will allow me to form meaningful connections and bonds with my colleagues, partner, and
clients. It will allow me to thrive and flourish emotionally; invoking my emotions where need be
to solve the challenges in my personal and professional.
Finkel, E., Simpson, J., & Eastwick, P. (2017). The Psychology of Close Relationships: Fourteen
Core Principles. Annual Review Of Psychology, 68(1), 383-411.

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