BY: T. Franklin Murphy |December 2017
Running headlong into our imperfections is frightening. We realize how dependent we are on others. Along with imperfection we must accept vulnerability.
We artfully hide imperfections. We hide them from others and hide them from ourselves. We have learned that emotional environments are not always graciously accepting of our stumblings. By exposing weakness, we diminish our security. Our protective defenses, typically formed in childhood, were necessary; but often outlive their usefulness, interfering with relationships and development. The protective deceptions, while on display when relating, our aimed at deceiving ourselves. We derive security from lifting ourselves above the lessor others. With realization of weaknesses, we must process the negative feeling affects of vulnerability.
We display our strength and conceal our weaknesses, fooling ourselves with a protective coon of independence, while ignoring our true reliance on external sources. Human connections through societies, families and groups are not merely conveniences; they are necessary for survival. We need others. No man is an Island.
Our weaknesses will meet with adverse reactions from others. Exposure of our true being doesn’t always get blessed with a non-judgmental and compassionate crowd. When I explode in weakness or error, my expressions may upset those that love me, creating an unsavory response. The whole purpose defenses are utilized is to create a smooth existence devoid of conflict—emotional tranquility. This imaginary universe fails on many levels, including the original purpose of the deception. Eventually, the faulty air of imperfection is exposed, and we must face the inevitable, or double down with deeper deceptions.
"Human connections through societies, families and groups are not merely conveniences; they are necessary for survival."
While the post-modernist may shun attempts to reign in reality, we can’t ignore the existence of truths and correlations. The closer we are to reality, the more informed our decisions and the better we can predict the outcomes of behaviors. Just because biases and misinformation haunt our psyches, doesn’t mean reality doesn’t exist and wisdom can’t be obtained.
Strong relationships can’t be built on false pretenses. Although conflict is avoided, the bonds of connection are superficial. The relationship fails to provide the healing balm of being know. Bonds are strengthened through a continually series of conflict and repair. We don’t seek conflict. But honest relating naturally includes occasional clashes of differences. Healthy relationships are able to negotiate the conflicts in healthy manners, immediately seeking repair of the momentary out-of-syncness, restoring closeness. This repeated pattern, obviously laced with much good will and tender affections, builds trust. The moments of mis-attunement can be endured because history tells us the disconnection will be repaired. In these compassionate environments, we can expose our weaknesses, exploring the deeper textures of ourself, knowing the secure arms of a loving caregiver is nearby.
“The experience of affects becomes more alive, textured, and differentiated with layers of associations…” Diana Fosha (2000, Location 892)
Thomas Merton in his epic book, No Man is an Island, wrote that we can only face and accept our limitations when we live for others. “As long as we secretly adore ourselves, our own deficiencies will remain to torture us with an apparent defilement.” He continues, “We will see that we are human, like everyone else, that we all have weaknesses and deficiencies, and that these limitations of ours play a most important part in all our lives. It is because of them that we need others and others need us.” (2002, p. xxi)
Acknowledging weaknesses is essential part of connection, we come to know ourselves as we reveal ourselves to others; flaws become acceptable. The acknowledgment subjects us to vulnerability; but the vulnerability pulls us together with others.
Many instead of facing the fears of rejection, seek escape. Their imaginations bend reality to soothe disruptions, painting a perfect existence beyond reproach, overlooking the blemishes and seeing beauty. Those more acquainted with life do not wince at a freckle or a scar; they are intrigued. The texture of imperfection ignites attraction.
I have a close friend who was raised in a chaotic environment. He followed his father through divorce and a revolving door of live-in girlfriends. The unpredictableness of his childhood made insufficiency off limits. Imperfection is so distasteful to him that even my openness to my struggles ignites his fears. “Oh, no,” he would quickly retort, “you are really good at that.”
Self-deceptions are wondrous and seamless, creating a world where we robustly stand, uninhibited by judgmental others. Without courageous attentiveness, we disconnect from reality, adapting to the flow of feelings by living in a narrowly depicted representation of the mind. We aren’t the best driver, the best partner, or best employee. Majority of people believe they are above average in most categories. From the foundation of a bloated self, blame becomes the only reasonable explanation for failure. IT MUST BE SOMEONE ELSE’S FAULT!
We all have a distorted view. We see the world through the lenses of bias. The unpredictable chaos of complexity creates too much anxiety; we escape through structure and control. Wisdom recognizes our susceptibleness to biased delusions and repeatedly challenges them. We can know our vision is limited without knowing precisely which thoughts are biased and which thoughts are grounded in reality; but by accepting that our views are malleable rather than hard facts, we occasionally see through the smoke, grasp onto a truth and make needed adjustments.
When imperfections are invisible, avoided through willful blindness, we become servants to the deceptions, motivated by the emotions they engender. We can’t confront work constructively with the blemishes we don’t see. When we see the spots, understand our vulnerability, we can establish supporting connections, learn trust, and discover safe zones for retreat. From this position of strength, we grow in depth, compassion and wisdom. We become enlightened to our humanness. Faults don’t testify of nastiness, we still, in our imperfections, deserve the beauties of life—love, security, and forgiveness.
Fosha, D. (2000) The Transforming Power Of Affect: A Model For Accelerated Change. Kindle Edition
Merton, T. (2002). No Man is an Island. Mariner Books. Kindle Edition
Topics: Human Growth, Self-Compassion