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Vulnerability in Relationships is the Opposite of Manipulation

Posted Jan 01 2011 12:13am

Manipulation of others is a great way to stay invulnerable. Manipulation is a way to hide who we really are from others. Shame, Manipulation, Perfectionism & Vulnerability

We are all a mixture of good and bad. Yet when was the last time you shared a story of being bad with someone else? When was the last time someone honestly shared a personal struggle they were having, with you? These would require vulnerability and exposure, both are a rare commodity in our culture.

I believe more & more people hide out in the comfort of playing Victim, Rescuer, Persecutor because there is a certainty to what is going to happen. There are only 3 roles to play and everyone has their 2 favorites. I have handed out a one page synopsis of The Karpman Drama Triangle for more than 20 years almost every single week. (Read more on the website link or in the Manipulation category.)

We think of someone’s ability to be vulnerable as a weakness even though it takes tremendous courage to be authentic. As a culture we admire people who are good at playing defense.

Defense can be perfectionism, materialism, constant busyness or the profound silence of shame. I often ask my clients, who else knows this terrible story & they shake their heads because no one else does. Alcoholics Anonymous understands that sharing shameful stories reduces the shame and restores a sense of belonging.

I am in the business of helping people build a connection with themselves and with others. The only way to pursue this path is through a willingness to be vulnerable. This is why therapy requires courage. This is why so many people bail on having more intimate relationships. Intimacy requires vulnerability. Manipulation doesn’t.

The work of being vulnerable is a lot of what is achieved when couples therapy is successful. Many couples get into habits with each other that don’t nurture honest dialogue. This level of intimacy has to be worked on for an entire lifetime which is in part why marriage is so hard. Prematurely leaving the relationship is another way to avoid vulnerability.

Dr. Brene Brown has done an immense amount of research at the University of Houston on Shame, Vulnerability & Perfectionism. I highly recommend her TED talk on You Tube “The Price of Invulnerability”


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