Vulnerability is not danger. Say you notice you’re holding your breath or tapping your feet or biting your lip or rolling your forefinger across your thumb or tightening the muscles in your abs or bracing your neck or back or butt…  Congratulations!!! Your awareness of body sensations is success! Your observation is the first step in caring about yourself. So please take a moment to give yourself credit for tuning in to your body when it signals you.

The very next thing you need to do is assess: are you in immediate danger? If there is a threat to life and limb, run away. If not, love yourself.

Let me say that again: If there is an immediate threat to life and limb, run away. If not, pay inner attention and love yourself. Simple, right? Right, but so hard to do…

Unrest is vulnerability not danger. Pay inner attention.
Photo by Joice Kelly on Unsplash

Your intelligent body loves you and wants to keep you safe, so it constantly scans your world for threat. It asks “Are we safe?” via sensations of muscle tension and agitation. If you are in physical danger your body is ready and able to run and jump and fight to save your life. If you are about to make a left-hand turn and suddenly a speeding motorist races through the yellow light your nervous system orchestrates a rush of adrenaline, raising your heart rate, increasing your respiration, focusing your vision on the target and your escape path, while increasing power to your limbs and allowing you to rapidly swerve out of the way without even knowing how you did that. Amazing, brilliant, intelligent body!

Those situations of actual physical danger, where you need to orient outward, are relatively rare in our modern lives. Most of the time when your nervous system is activated it is signalling vulnerability. Vulnerability is not danger. You are faced with vulnerability any time reality touches you with uncertainty or limits to your control. Unrest spikes in those moments, heralding the precise moment for you to tune inward and pay attention to sensations of muscle tension and agitation. When your body is activated with unrest it needs to know there is no threat to life. Your job is to soothe it by paying warm interest and non-judgment to your sensations. And that is your moment of choice. Choice is power. It is not control that is power, because there are always limits to your control. It is your choice that empowers you, and your choice that frees you.

What choice??

The big choice: approach or avoid. Otherwise known as “love or fear”…

Will you approach and love yourself in the moment you are faced with your vulnerability? Will you tune inward and pay tender attention to the uncomfortable sensations in your body? Will you show up for yourself and let your body know there is no immediate physical danger? Or will you avoid yourself in the physical discomfort of nervous system arousal, ignoring what you feel, or frightening yourself with a story that falsely validates the sensations? Will you worry as a trick to make you think you really can control everything? Will you shame and blame yourself when you do not succeed in controlling everything? Will you numb out with busy-ness and food and alcohol and television and work and shopping and exercise and…

Or will you love yourself? Will you lean toward yourself? Will you be a spring sun illuminating and warming the earth of your body? Will you offer warmth, interest, and non-judgment from your observing mind to your fretful body? Your loyal, intelligent body that loves you so much?  Will you love your body back? Will you give it the assurance it needs?

Pay inner attention to your body and let it know it is safe.
Photo by Kajetan Sumila on Unsplash

If there is nothing to run from right now, love yourself and pay inner attention. That is everything, and you are so worth it.

Recent Blog Posts:

Embracing Unrest

I’m excited to announce my first book has a launch date! Out October 18th, 2022, Embracing Unrest: Harness Vulnerability to Tame Anxiety and Spark Growth answers the question: why is it so hard to “be here”?

View my “Embracing Unrest” column on Psychology Today!