As a writer, I love word mash-ups. Some will never be found in a standard dictionary, but speak to the onomatopoetic nature of language. One such fun fusion is ‘vulnerageous.’ My friend Maureen offered it as a way of expressing that in our interactions, there is a need for vulnerability, which increases intimacy (described as into-me-see) and takes the ultimate sense of courageousness.
According to Etymology Dictionary, the origin of that word is “1300, from Old French corage (12c., Modern French courage) “heart, innermost feelings; temper,” from Vulgar Latin *coraticum (source of Italiancoraggio, Spanish coraje), from Latin cor “heart,” from PIE root *kerd- (1) “heart” which remains a common metaphor for inner strength. In Middle English, used broadly for “what is in one’s mind or thoughts,” hence “bravery,” but also “wrath, pride, confidence, lustiness,” or any sort of inclination. Replaced Old English ellen, which also meant “zeal, strength.”
When contemplating the nature of human encounters, it implies that the most gratifying and satisfying communion comes from the heart.
According to Brene’ Brown, PhD, author of Daring Greatly, “When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives. Dr. Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”
When we encounter another human being, we face the possibility of rejection, but also the likelihood of union. As infants, we are in need of shelter, food, care for our bodies, development for our minds and nurturing for our emotions. All of these are, if we are fortunate, supplied by the adults in our lives. When we are amply provided for in these realms, we are more likely to thrive and our interactions with those around us are far more satisfying. When we lack these essential nutrients, our relationships are more often fraught with conflict and chaos, loneliness and separation.
An Experiment In Vulnerability
In 2011, I visited a friend in Sedona, Arizona. While I was there, she wanted to go to yard sales in the area to look for fireplace equipment. After a few hours of seeking and not finding, we were headed back to her place. One more go around in a garage that held items once part of a general store, brought me a treasure. It looked like a deceptively simple tool that you would find in any kitchen. Immediately I knew it was special since the tin object had the words “Love Spice for Living. Net wt. immeasurable” inscribed on it.
The sides of the spice can carry the words “Ingredients: Faithfulness, Gentleness, Goodness, Joy, Kindness, Patience, Peace, Perseverence, Protection, Trust, Truthfulness and Unselfishness.”
” THE STORY BEHIND LOVE”
“For many years, a man watched his wife take a locked box down from the cupboard. She would unlock the box, take a pinch, sprinkle it over whatever she was cooking, relock the box and return it to its place. One day, while his wife was away, his curiosity got the best of him. He went to the cupboard, took the box down and opened it. To his surprise, it was empty. He turned it over and on the bottom was written the word LOVE. Don’t keep your LOVE locked up in a cupboard, Keep it within easy reach and use generously. SO…..though not in your recipe book, into everything you cook, put a big pinch of LOVE.”
I brought it home and had the idea to use it in workshops I facilitated and groups I ran at an inpatient psychiatric hospital where I was employed as a social worker. I asked participants to stand in a circle. I explained that the can had three openings, like any other spice dispenser. A sprinkle, a spoon and a dump. I had decided to keep the can seemingly empty, rather than fill it with glitter as I had considered. I asked them to imagine that instead of null space within it, that it contained the essence of love. The instruction was that one person at a time turn to their neighbor and ask, “Would you like to be spooned, sprinkled, dumped, all of the above or none of the above?” I wanted to give them the freedom to accept or decline love. Everything by consent. Permission was requested each time and the giver had to wait until the receiver responded with their preference.
The responses were, at times, delightful and joyfilled, sad and quite revealing of the mindset of those in the circle. Some said they wanted it all and held their arms out wide to receive. Others replied tentatively, that they only wanted a little bit. A few (in the therapeutic group) offered poignant answers, “I don’t want any, because love hurts.” “I don’t want to get used to it, because it will go away.”
I then asked questions:
- How does it feel to give love?
- How does it feel to receive love?
- How does it feel to watch others get loved on?
- How does it feel to wait your turn to give and receive?
- How much love can you handle?
Most people had not considered the conscious act of sprinkling love on others and some shared that they could actually feel and even ‘see’ the energy pouring forth. While this was by no means a scientific experiment, it produced anecdotal evidence that when people are able to be vulnerable in this manner, there is emotional benefit. It does taking a willingness to put oneself on the line, since offering or asking for love puts one at risk for rejection. It took ‘vulnerageous-ness’ to step out of comfort zones.
- How do you integrate love into all you do?
- When was the last time you sprinkled love all around and on people who may not have been aware of it?
- Do you withhold that which is really the spice of life?
- How about offering flavorful opportunities for folks to recognize that they are the bakers of the bread of life?
- Are you willing to spice up your relationships with this condiment that knows no limitation or condition?