“Is that all?”
It’s a humble question, even light hearted. That’s why you’ll be astonished to learn it came from a man coming to grips with being HIV positive.
The July series, Quiet Reflection, Effective Action, is focusing on vulnerability. No one wants to be taken advantage of, but there’s an interesting tension between vulnerability and smart boundary setting. In an attempt to live our values, can the limits we create become limitations?
In “Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing,” Caroline Myss tells the story of how she and Dr. Norm Shealy counseled two people, each in the midst of a serious health crisis.
Her first appointment didn’t go as planned. Myss remembers what she thought would be a straightforward recommendation for someone battling diabetes, chronic pain, and obesity:
“We spoke with her about how she could improve her condition immediately by changing to a healthy nutritional program and exercising moderately.
Her response was, “Absolutely not. I could never do those things. I don’t have any will power. What other suggestions do you have for me?”“
By comparison, Myss tells about meeting with Peter, their HIV positive client:
“Norm and I created a healing program for Peter, which included adopting a healthy, near vegetarian diet, doing aerobic exercise, quitting smoking, using castor-oil packs across his abdomen for 45 minutes a day, and psychotherapy, to help him liberate himself from his secrecy about being gay.
Peter, in contrast, accepted his personal responsibility for healing with gratitude and treated all the demands of his healing program as effortless.”
You might be thinking, “Well, the answer is obvious. The woman should have followed their advice. Didn’t she want to feel better? After all, how hard can it be to switch up your eating and walk 30 minutes a day?”
For her? Pretty hard. In fact, the proposals to change her eating habits and introduce regular exercise were so overwhelming that she immediately rejected both ideas.
In spite of our best intentions, we all have some part of our life where we share her blind spot – it’s part of being human. We dig in to protect ourselves, but that strategy backfires. Instead of flourishing, we slowly become brittle.
This week, challenge yourself to let down your guard. Have a little experiment where you take on Peter’s open-minded attitude and say “yes” where you previously might have leaped to a “no”.
Maybe you’ll look up from your phone and strike up a conversation with a total stranger in the elevator at work. You could take a risk by answering candidly when someone asks how your day is going. Or perhaps you’ll allow someone else to be vulnerable in your presence – giving them the longed for “now that we’re really talking” moment.
When you know how to let others in without losing yourself, you’re mastering healthy vulnerability. Test ways to stay in your power, to stay true to what matters to you, without building an impenetrable wall.
No matter what kind of hard conversation comes your way, soon you’ll be asking, “Is that all?”