Asking For Help Is Not The Same Thing As Receiving

What does asking for help, receiving help and achieving our goals have to do with vulnerability? As it turns out, everything. I love the work of Brene Brown who researches and writes about vulnerability and on her website she says, “it is at the core of difficult emotions like grief, fear, and disappointment, but it’s also the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation and creativity. When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.”
Experiencing physical or emotional pain puts us in a position to need help. I remember early in my journey out of chronic pain, I felt uncertain of what actions to take and what advice to listen to. Up till that point I had not succeeded in overcoming my chronic pain and I knew I had to be willing to try different things if I wanted to achieve different results.  I blindly trusted in each practitioner’s suggestions and trusted the healing process. In hind site I recognize this place of needing others, not feeling certain about my actions and not feeling in control of my body as being very vulnerable. If I had not been open and willing to trust the healing process and tolerate the feelings of uncertainty, would I have achieved the same results? Would I have overcome my chronic pain?
I think the significance of being vulnerable is illustrated nicely in the parable of young Samson and his mentor as told by Jonathan Fields on his podcast series.
Samson: I have built something incredible and we are working with world-class clients. We are the best at what we do. I am working insanely hard to steer this ship and yet we have stalled. We are not growing. I can’t see my way forward, I can’t see my next move. Can you help me? Can you help us?
Mentor: Well, that depends. Are you open to receiving?
Samson: Of course I am. I just asked for your help!
Mentor: Then, let’s begin.
(They begin to work together and months pass until they return to the conversation)
Samson: I don’t understand! Why isn’t anything changing? You said you would help me, but everything is the same.
Mentor: You came to me seeking help and you need it badly, we both agree with that. I was and still am open to giving it to you. You said you were open to receiving it, but your actions belie your words. Your biggest blind spot is not the marketing, research, strategies and ideas. It is your own unwillingness to be vulnerable. To own the fact that though you have gotten yourself here at this moment in time you don’t know what your doing or how to move forward. Until this changes nobody can help you.
Samson: With anger says, but I asked for your help! How can you tell me I am not vulnerable, open to receiving?
Mentor: Calmly responds, what you asked for and what you are open to are not the same. I’ve shared ideas, I’ve brought others in to help you and every time we talk, you, me and the others, you stop listening and talk over our ideas and offers for help. Instead of receiving, you posture and it is so automatic you have no idea you are doing it. You don’t do this because you are rude or incapable or ignorant. You are immensely bright, kind, capable. You do this because what you are being offered is not coming from you. You have been conditioned to think, through no fault of your own, that you need to be the one who figures it all out. If it doesn’t come from you, you’ll be perceived as weak, incapable and you can’t tolerate that thought. You need others to believe that you are on par with them. So instead of listening, learning, and receiving, you talk, rebuff and revert to the illusion of strength and false confidence. You refuse to acknowledge the newness or validity of any idea from someone who is not you. In doing so, you push all those who line up to help you away, with out even realizing you’re doing it. You leave those who try to help banging their heads against your shield. It’s incredibly frustrating to be asked for help, only to be blocked from giving it.
Samson: Are you saying all those people who offered to help me over the years, but then abandoned me, that wasn’t about them, but me?
Mentor: I can’t speak for all people, but I can tell you this, the people that I gathered to help you, most of whom, as you say, abandoned you, they’ve all shared this reason with me; when you first came to me, you acted on a moment of deep pain, you allowed yourself to be vulnerable and that led to a temporary openness to receive help. Yet the moment it arrived, that fact that you needed it and the reality that accepting it required you to own your un-knowingness in the eyes of others, terrified you so you shut down and defaulted to a show of bravado. The most dangerous part is that you don’t see it. You are not aware you are doing it. You keep asking for help, wondering why nothing changes and why people keep saying they’ll help and then walking away from you. Here’s the truth, asking and receiving are two very different things. I know this because I am you. I also struggle with my ego to have all the answers. To not be seen as weak. I have learned there comes a time when you need to stand naked and silent in the room and not just lower your shield, but keep it down. You must value other people’s ideas and not discount them simply because they are not coming from you. Be willing to stand in a place of deep vulnerability, not as a show of weakness, but a show of strength.
Samson: Are you saying I need to come clean to the world about where I am?
Mentor: No, start with a single person or a small group of people who are there for the right reasons, they love you, respect you and want to help you. It is often brutally uncomfortable to remain in this exposed place long enough for true change to happen, yet sometimes, naked and silent is the place where your next better self takes root and where the thing you most want to grow begins to blossom. So, I ask you again, “Are you open to receiving, just standing naked and silent?” If so, the real work begins, if not, I wish you well.
If, like me, you fully engage in the self-growth process you’ve had your battles with the ego. Just recently I went through a battle concerning a behavior issue with our cat. We thought we had the issue handled and then the methods we were using stopped working. After months of trying different things I finally was on my knees, metaphorically, asking the universe for help. I reached out to a friend who turned me on to the perfect person to help us with this problem. I was open and trusting in her advice about how to help our cat, AND implementing her suggestions. LEAN into the discomfort as they say!!
I find hope from knowing that awareness, repeated often, is the key to shifting our automatic patterns and that, “naked and silent is the place where our next better self takes root and where the thing you most want to grow begins to blossom!”
If you, or someone you know, are ready to end the struggle with chronic pain I invite you to work with me privately or check out one of my upcoming classes.
It is my great pleasure to help you, help yourself.

Here’s To Our Better Selves!