Understanding Our Reaction to Vulnerability
A few weeks ago my husband told me he thought I was overreacting about a situation that was causing me a lot of stress. Honestly, I was surprised by his comment, and it really struck me hard. I felt like I was handling the situation adequately, and I felt like I was just trying to discuss it with him. I began to ask him why and how he thought I could possibly be overreacting. He tried to explain his position, but the my emotions already started to escalate and so did my input to the conversation. As my conversation continued my emotions let loose. I was speaking words that didn't even make sense for the conversation; I was throwing blame every which-way, and I was victimizing myself on top of it all. Soon enough, I was crying and continued my thoughtless and emotion driven reaction that had nothing to do with the current situation, but then I started to get really confused.
Suddenly, I heard myself speaking these confusing words hysterically, and something happened that has never happened to me before. I said out loud, (more to myself than my husband) "This is getting out of control." Turns out, this was a good indication that I was actually realizing a "shame trigger" as Brene Brown (see Favorite References) would call it.
I managed to somewhat reel it back in and we concluded the conversation, but I was really uncomfortable with the way I was acting when it did seem my husband was only telling me something he was concerned about. After the conversation and reaction, I thought about it through the night and the next day and realized that when he expressed his concern about how I was handling the situation, I felt very vulnerable. My reaction to shield myself from this vulnerability was to completely victimize myself and blame others. I was spouting off total ridiculousness about handling it all by myself and being alone in the matter, and then, I went onto things that really didn't relate to the conversation at all.
I was quite embarrassed about this reaction, whether or not I agreed with my husband about the situation, and it made so many other events from my past more clear. Realizing that I victimize myself when I'm feeling vulnerable and recognizing the behaviors when they start, makes it so I can stop myself and I can recover. Rather than talking nonsense, I can have a more realistic conversation and really try to understand what the other person is communicating rather than shutting them out and turning the conversation or event into something that it shouldn't be.
Feeling vulnerable is one of the most uncomfortable emotions I know, especially when it is with people I know well. But realizing these reactions to feeling vulnerable helps me understand and recover from acting in ways I don't like. Will and strength are built each time I don't self-victimize when I feel vulnerable and I can continue to control my response in the future and hopefully not let them happen again or at least as often.
When finding ourselves reacting in ways we don't like or when we are confused by our reactions, it's important to reflect to identify our shame triggers, how we react to feeling vulnerable, and find ways to respond more mindfully. Identifying these type of shame triggers helps us gain strength and stay present in the moments when we feel vulnerable rather than reacting out of fear and shame.