Vulnerability is universal. The fear you feel is the fear I feel. Dr. Brené Brown defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. While we can practice vulnerability in safe spaces, we will always confront moments where we are uncertain, when we feel that we are taking a risk, and when we feel emotionally exposed.
Therapists face a lot of vulnerability! Not only do we witness our clients take vulnerable steps, but we sit in our own vulnerability personally and professionally. It takes a lot of vulnerability to sit across from someone and wonder “am I helping this person? Am I the therapist they need me to be?”
I often feel vulnerable in my sessions when I start to say something truly authentic; something that moves me from the traditional blank-slate of a therapist, to a statement of providing insight into who I really am. When I start to say something to which I am deeply connected, I can often stop myself. My breath cuts short, I freeze up. The internal questions start, like a battering ram in my brain.
Is that professional?
Does it sound disingenuous?
Am I crossing a line in saying this?
Will people actually believe me?
In her book, Mansfield Park, Jane Austen writes: “There are as many forms of love as there are moments in time.” And the love and admiration I feel for those with whom I work is a beautiful form of love.
Yes, the work we do is clinical. But, the work we do is ultimately about connection. That connection is necessary for us to have empathic, safe, and vulnerable conversations. Conversations conducted in this way allow us to dig into places we may not feel safe digging with others, and in doing so, we create lasting change. How can that not be a moment of love?
Jane Austen also writes, “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”
Thus, here is my moment of vulnerability. Here is what I want you, every one of my clients, to know: I love you so much.
The work we do is rooted in love. I deeply care for you. I think about all of the amazing work you are doing even when we aren’t in session, and I’m so proud of the work you do every day. Simply showing up to a therapy session is an act of bravery. Allowing me into your life in such an intimate way is my honor and privilege. If that isn’t love, then I clearly have been highly miseducated in what love means.