Vulnerability is Not Enough
“Vulnerability” is touted as the key to successful relationships, but there is a more nuanced dimension.
“Open minded” describes the extent of other people you are willing to accept.
“Open hearted” describes the depth of yourself you are willing to share.
Every crystal shimmers from a distance but reveals flaws upon a closer look.
We close our minds because we discovered that others are not as perfect as we first imagined, and we scorn them for having deceived us.
We close our hearts because we revealed our ugly selves and repulsed others in horror, and we are terrified of being abandoned.
But there is a catch to opening up.
Too much open mindedness without open heartedness is tragic empathy: caring for others but not meeting your own needs. You valiantly pull the oxygen mask towards your neighbour, but instead succumb to hypoxia. You accept all the faults of others and embrace their soul, but deny them any insight into your own life. You would treat a friend better than you treat yourself.
Too much open heartedness without open mindedness is a subtle narcissism: it feels important and validating to courageously share your problems, but you insinuate that your own suffering is special and more deserving than others’ pain. Suffering is ubiquitous and focusing the spotlight on your corner is an ego boost. You are told to embrace “vulnerability” so you seize this gem to attract attention. You spend more money on self-help books than you do on charity.
When a tragic empath meets a subtle narcissist, this becomes a classic codependent relationship. But if it is paid, we call it therapy. Without money mediating the imbalance, then depression or drama will substitute for it instead, just as water cannot remain undisturbed when it flows on a precipice.
Prescribing more vulnerability helps the closed hearted but not the closed minded, just as prescribing more empathy helps the closed minded but not the closed hearted.
We need more vulnerability and more empathy, but not in equal proportions to all people.
Let us picky and anxious people work on caring for others’ wounds, without expecting reciprocity.
Let us headstrong and guarded people work on unmasking our faults, without expecting understanding.
Let us be proud to face the world, with both an open mind and an open heart.
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