Emotional Shields and the Power of Vulnerability

Let go, what's the worst that can happen?


I'm forever saying this as I help clients to let go of their habitual patterns of tension. And it's not entirely a rhetorical question. The worst that can happen in that moment is that it may expose your vulnerability. Your emotions are completely wrapped up in your physicality, and vice versa. It's all one and the same.


I like to think of these physical tensions as emotional shields, and they should be respected as such. They make you feel safer, even if you're not consciously aware of it happening.  It's totally pointless to suggest you improve your posture by pulling your shoulders back, or standing up straight, if you don’t also recognise that your emotions are encouraging you to curl up into a protective ball. And that's ignoring that it's bad advice to "stand up straight" anyway as it just causes more tension. It's also important to realise that although your emotions and moods may "encourage" you to tighten, they don't actually cause you to do so in the long term. In those moments, you effectively start to react to your Self, which may become a vicious circle, but by practising embodied mindfulness with the Alexander Technique this can be reduced. And in preventing an excessive physical reaction and maintaining your poise you'll find that you're left to experience the emotion more fully, which may not be pleasant, but by being with it at least allows it to be better processed. Naturally some situations do elicit a very strong emotional and physical reaction (a psycho-physical reaction in Alexander Technique jargon), and that's fine too, what's important is to avoid habituating that response into a longer term experience. 

Vulnerability and the Alexander Technique
It's OK to feel vulnerable.

Image used with permission by Depositphotos

When you're feeling vulnerable you don't usually want the world to know about it. The irony is that when you diminish your stature to feel emotionally safe you end up broadcasting your vulnerability to everyone via your body language. The only hope is that no one notices as you attempt to make yourself invisible. And on the whole, everyone else is so wrapped up in their own shields, that it kind of works. But do you really want what everyone else has, or do you wish for something more? Some predatory types (every office has one!) do instinctively recognise this body language and will exploit it to their own advantage, and ironically, the best way to shield yourself from this is to drop your shields. When you offer your vulnerability willfully it's more difficult for you to be exploited for it. And in reality most people won't observe your vulnerability when it's offered anyway. It will either appear as a neutral posture, or, in further irony, as confidence which, unlike arrogance, is simply a lack of reaction to a situation in my opinion.


I word I'm rather fond of is surrender. Like vulnerability, it is often thought of in negative terms, but it's also a powerfully positive word. I'm currently working with someone who is a member of the clergy and the idea of surrender resonates strongly for them in their spiritual life. But if you're not of that persuasion (like myself, as it happens), gaining an attitude of total acceptance and allowing (which is a central concept in the Alexander Technique) is a great place to start dealing with your sense of vulnerability. 


To start exploring how you relate to your own vulnerability, and turning the idea that it's a negative trait on its head, I recommend Brene Brown's TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability. I share it with my clients often and I always receive great feedback on how helpful they've found it to be, and it's no surprise to me that it went semi-viral and is one of TED's most watched.  It's about twenty minutes long and I strongly encourage you to watch it, after all, what's the worst that can happen? It may hold the key to understanding those long standing aches and pains.

Video courtesy of TED, Standard YouTube Licence. (3 Jan 2011)

Whilst looking up the URL for Brene's original talk, I also stumbled across some more recent talks, and I particularly liked this one: Embracing Vulnerability


"To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength." - Criss Jami, author, poet, singer

Please feel free to contact me for a no obligation chat to see how the Alexander Technique can help you too.

Write a comment

Comments: 3
  • #1

    Laurel Leaf (Saturday, 19 November 2016 11:49)

    Fantastic and interesting blog Adrian, clearly explains how your mindset/emotions can be reflected in your poise. You got right to the heart of the matter.

  • #2

    Mark Claireaux (Tuesday, 22 November 2016 17:16)

    Great blog Adrian, I've been talking to my clients about this recently and the TED talk will be useful to share with the too. It certainly helps to share with our pupils that we are vulnerable too.

  • #3

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    Iam very happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that’s at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this best posting.