Public drama is never attractive (at least to me). I have a relative who posts on Facebook every aspect of her impending divorce, and her depression around it. Some of her friends respond with supportive comments, and I’m sure they care. But for me, public drama is extremely unattractive. I don’t see it so much as being vulnerable as it is a neediness for attention. In other words, the need to get something from others in an expectation that it’ll somehow make her feel better. That’s what I call “vampire energy”: taking from others in order to feel better.
On the other hand, I welcome vulnerable sharing about one’s feelings in a one-on-one environment. I will listen with compassion, and not offer the first word of advice without being asked for it. I may ask the sharer to “try something on” to see if it may yield some relief from their situation… or even suggest a process for healing and recovery… but normally, only if I’m asked. Someone who’s in pain may well need just to have someone listen non-judgmentally, in order to find their own answers to move on. Vulnerability in this context is a sacred trust, where one is baring their soul to another. And, having been that “other” more than a few times, I’ll say it’s an honor and a privilege to be so deeply trusted, and to witness the courage of the person being vulnerable. People think vulnerability is a sign of weakness? No, it takes courage to open up to one’s feelings. It’s risky! And thus one should use discernment about whether the space is safe to be so open.
If, during such a session, the person turns to drama rather than vulnerability (the need to “get” something from me beyond just being heard), I’ll gently try to direct the conversation back to feelings, and away from neediness.
So where does one find such safe spaces? A therapist, or a support group, a trusted friend or minister. 12-step groups are generally a very safe space to be open in discussing one’s troubles. Plus, in listening to others share, we can see that we’re not alone… that we’re all more similar than different when it comes to life’s difficulties. And it feels good to support others who are sharing their own troubles.
Those who view your vulnerability as neediness (if it really is vulnerability and not drama) are not your friends.
So I invite you to discern for yourself whether or not you want or need something from someone else when you’re sharing your woes. Don’t be a vampire!
is another piece about vulnerability, if you’d like.