Noted with pleasure: Our strange ideas about vulnerability


We have the strange idea, unsupported by any evidence, that we are loved and admired only for our superb strength, our far-reaching powers, and our all-knowing competency.  Yet in the real world, no matter how many relationships may have been initiated by strength and power, no marriage or friendship has ever been deepened by these qualities.  After a short, erotic honeymoon, power and omnipotence expose their shadow underbellies and threaten real intimacy, which is based on mutual vulnerability.  After the bows have been made to the brass god of power, we find in the privacy of relationship that same god suddenly immobile and inimicable to conversation.  As brass gods ourselves, we wonder why we are no longer loved in the same way we were at our first appearance.  Our partners have begun to find our infallibility boring and, after long months or years, to find us false, frightening, and imprisoning….

We have an even stranger idea: that we will finally fall in love with ourselves only when we have become the totally efficient organized organism we have always wanted to be and left all of our bumbling ineptness behind.  Yet in exactly the way we come to find love and intimacy with others through vulnerability, we come to those same qualities in ourselves through living out the awkwardness of not knowing, of not being in charge. 

~ From Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity

by David Whyte (Riverhead Books, 2001).

2 responses to “Noted with pleasure: Our strange ideas about vulnerability

  • lauriewoodwardauthor

    I can relate. I often feel like I need to prove my worth to not only my partner, but to my family and friends by reciting a laundry list of all the organized tasks I’ve accomplished. I mean, people won’t love us just for who we are, will they?

    • Steve Hauptman

      In my experience, that depends entirely on how able we are to love ourselves for who we are.

      We teach people how to see and treat us by how we see and treat ourselves.

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