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The Vulnerability Armory – Part 2

Posted by: Ronda Devereaux | January 27, 2013 | 1:23 pm



In her book Daring Greatly,  Brene’ Brown talks about the masks and shields we create so that we don’t let ourselves be seen. Foreboding joy, perfectionism and numbing emerged as the three most universal methods of protection – what she calls the major categories of defense. Her research also pointed to some less frequented shelves in the armory.


The Shield : Viking or Victim – Brene’ found that many of her research participants that said that they had little use for the concept of vulnerability tended to see the world as what she called Vikings or Victims.  The Viking exerts power, stays in control and dominates. They never show vulnerability. The Victims are losers who are always being taken advantage of and can’t hold their own in the world. The language they used to describe their view of the world was winner or loser, kill or be killed, strong or weak, success or failure. There was no middle ground. The majority of the people holding this world view tended to be men but there were some women. They also held jobs that reinforced this mentality. Law enforcement, people in high performance or supercompetitive jobs like law, technology and finance.


Cultivating trust and connection in relationships was the prerequisite to countering the Viking or Victim mentality and reengaging in vulnerability. Putting down the Viking or Victim shield often requires help from a professional as many times there is underlying trauma reinforcing this defense.


The Shield : Letting it all hang out – oversharing in our culture fell into two groups, floodlighting and the smash and grab. Oversharing is not vulnerability. It often results in disconnection, distrust and disengagement.


Floodlighting –  This is when we blast someone with information that doesn’t necessarily fall in line with the level of connection you have with them. The intention of this kind of sharing often includes soothing one’s pain, testing the loyalty and tolerance in a relationship and/or hot-wiring a new connection (we’ve only known each other a short time but I’m going to share this and we will be BFF’s now). The response is usually the other person wincing, recoiling or shutting down. If you are on the receiving end, the encounter can leave you feeling exhausted. When someone uses vulnerability it is not the same as being vulnerable – it’s armor.


I have always said that the greatest need of the human heart is to be listened to. Many floodlighters, in a desperation to be heard don’t realize that they are overstepping their connection. The key to sharing our experiences is share what we have already worked through with those people who have earned the right to hear it. Not to share fresh wounds. Sharing to teach or move a process forward but not work through your personal stuff with someone whom you don’t have the connection.  It goes back to intention – Why am I sharing this? What outcome am I hoping for? What emotions am I experiencing? Do my intentions align with my values? Is there an outcome, response, or lack of response that will hurt my feelings? Is this sharing in the service of connection? Am I genuinely asking the people in my life for what I need?


The Smash and Grab – this form of oversharing is all about using vulnerability as a manipulation tool. A smash and grab is about smashing through people’s social boundaries with intimate information, then grabbing whatever attention and energy you can get your hands on. That FB post that told the world your hubby is cheating and supplied proof – that is a smash and grab.  Going to school and telling everyone how someone hurt you is a smash and grab. You aren’t sharing with those that have earned the right, but with the world at large. You want to reinforce that you are right and they are wrong.  Again, this goes back to intention.


The Shield : Serpentining – spending enormous energy trying to dodge vulnerability when it would take far less effort to face it head on. This is about dodging conflict, discomfort or confrontation and can lead to hiding out, pretending avoidance and procrastination. Putting off that difficult phone call or conversation and cleaning your office instead is serpentining. Serpentining is draining. Acknowledgment and action are the key to diffusion.


The Shield : Cynicism, Criticism, Cool and Cruelty –these weapons keep vulnerability at a distance and also inflict injury on the people who are being vulnerable and making us uncomfortable. When we see someone own their vulnerability that mirror can make us feel more threatened than if we had shared something ourselves. It heightens the fact that we may not be showing up and letting ourselves be seen. Putting others down, personal attacks and unwarranted claims about their motivation would fall into this category. Do you have an over enthusiastic friend who’s energy makes you think “they are so stupid”. Is that the case or are you just a tad jealous that your enthusiasm meter can’t get above normal?


Many people end up in positions where they become targets of other people’s opinions – writers, celebrities, anyone in the public eye.  It becomes about self reflection and reality checking. Criticism can be important feedback. If we ignore all of it we can lose out on that feedback, but it also leaves us open to the hatefulness or getting our spirits crushed. It’s about balance. Sit with the criticism and see if it is constructive or not. If not – dump it.



Article by: Ronda Devereaux

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