I have discovered we all have a way of reacting when we are embarrassed to feel vulnerable. I identified this phenomenon of “countering vulnerability” recently and find it fascinating. It is a phenomenon of purposely shifting attention away from ourselves when we sense we are too exposed. We feel the powerful and embarrassing nature of our vulnerability, and to deflect attention from it, we create a diversionary tactic.
In my own world, I’ve seen people be embarrassed at their own kindness, recognizing that giving openly in the moment leaves them exposed and vulnerable, to then “counter” the kindness with ridiculous behavior. For example, a person will do something nice and then diminish the power of the kindness of the act by making a crudely mitigating comment right after. Or another example is when someone feels a rush of strong happiness at receiving a compliment in speech or action, and then tries to sabotage their gift by acting excessively silly or saying something dumb.
It’s a subtle phenomenon but one which I find powerful in what it conveys. When we can’t sit with vulnerability, either through our own actions of kindness which we leave us feeling exposed, or someone else’s kindness to us, which leaves us embarrassed and sensitive at how the attention makes us feel, it is not an optimal thing. It is important in this life to be comfortable sitting with our vulnerability. To rush to counter our vulnerability with speech or actions which degrade the power of the moment is counterproductive. For accepting our vulnerability is the key to beginning to accept the humbleness of our humanity. And accepting the humbleness of our humanity is what makes us authentic.