There is no questioning that human beings are social creatures.
The health benefits, physically and mentally, of developing and maintaining close relationships have been well documented (increased lifespan and reduced stress to name a few), and most people will have experienced some of the benefits at some point in their lives, and will continue to desire social connectedness. However, despite how much we might crave intimate social connection, many of us harbour certain patterns of beliefs that lead us to resist the intimacy and vulnerability required to develop and maintain deeper connections. So if we are innately social creatures, why would we do something so counter-intuitive? Put simply, vulnerability can be scary!
Whilst the majority of people crave intimate social connections, many of us resist being vulnerable because it can be confronting to reveal the raw parts of ourselves. We live in a culture that praises independence, stoicism, and having a thick skin, and vulnerability can be seen as a weakness. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we might feel like we are exposing ourselves to being hurt, humiliated or rejected, based on our innermost, most authentic selves. For many people this is too much of a risk and so we keep our guards up like fortress, only allowing people to see what we want them to.
Our reasons for avoiding vulnerability are unique to each of us. They are shaped by our upbringing, and the things we experience in our lives that shape our views of ourselves; others; and the world around us. Our amygdala sends us messages such as "they will just leave you anyway"; "you can't trust anyone but yourself"; and "it's only a matter of time before it ends". It does this in an attempt to keep us safe - safe from the emotional pain of being rejected after revealing our most authentic selves, and perhaps confirming what we already believed about ourselves and those around us. And while this is noble, it is also wildly unhelpful. The truth is, the genuine intimacy (emotional, sexual, or spiritual) required for deep social connections can not exist without vulnerability. Ultimately, vulnerability is about being honest with ourselves and others about how we feel; what we want; and asking for what we need. It takes huge courage to allow yourself to be truly vulnerable, which when you think about it, is really the opposite of weakness.
If you are interested in discussing any of the points further, we would be more than happy to hear from you. Feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will answer any questions you may have.