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Healing Vulnerability

Part Two

written by Ken Page, LCSW January 21, 2020
Healing Vulnerability

The Whirlwind of a Drag Queen

One day among the many wild, wild things that they set up and did, one was they set up a big blanket. They put a blanket on the floor and on the blanket where all of these outfits, girl’s stuff, boy’s stuff, leather stuff, everything stuff, indigenous things, just anything, anything you can imagine.

It was all there and they said, just jump in, one person at a time, put something on that reveals a piece of you and embody that piece of you, whatever it is. So I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I got up there and I walked up to the blanket, and I don’t even remember what I put on, but I became a drag queen and I was this insanely demented, overstimulated, wild, screaming, joyful, hysterical, enthusiastic, out of my mind, drag queen. I was hysterical.

I just became this whirlwind of a drag queen in front of everybody and then I put the stuff down, and I felt such profound shame.

Not because I wore drag, but because I had revealed a part of myself, which is this dementedly, bubbly being that is really a part of who I am and when I’m really myself, I am very much like a crazy kid. Well, that’s one part of what I’m like. But anyway, I went mad with that and afterward I was hit with a thunderbolt of such profound shame and embarrassment, indescribable.

It was really, really bad and I was brave enough to raise my hand and say, “Folks, I’m mortified. I am mortified by what I showed. I’m just full of shame.” And Kathleen said to me, “Oh my God, I loved that part of you. That was so fun and I loved it and I want more of that from you.” So she kind of saved my life. She saved me from sinking at that moment from this thunderbolt of total shame, this ring of shame that I felt around this wildly ridiculously enthusiastic part of my being that I did not know what to do with.

The Places We Care the Most

When I became a dad, it was the best thing in the world for me. I could be a complete, wild idiot and my kid loved it, laughed and enjoyed it. Not so much when he became a teenager, but up until puberty, I really got to express and embody that part of me with him all over the place and at my best, I do it with my family in front of their rolling eyes.

A day or two later, I talked to my therapist about this. She said, “Oh yeah, that’s retribution.” I said, “Tell me what you mean.” She explained that when we show a vulnerable part of ourselves, a deep, real part of ourselves, and are shamed for it, it’s not seen or appreciated as a gift, it’s stepped on or kicked, and that happens. It doesn’t have to happen too often because when we touch our core gifts, those are the places we care the most.

The places we care the most are the most easily hurt.

That’s why we form these rings of shame and vulnerability around these parts of ourselves. We make a rule inside to protect ourselves. That rule is wild horses are not gonna let that part of me come out because I’ve been shamed. I’ve been humiliated. I’ve been so hurt that part of me isn’t going to come out. Maybe it’s going to come out with my friends and family, but not my significant other. Not the person I’m dating because that’s just too mortifying.

So we make up these rules to protect these inner-sanctum parts, these, what I call Core Gifts. And what happens is that these are like hypnosis that we create of, “Oh my God, you cannot touch that. You cannot do that. You cannot go there.”

The Antidote for an Old Hypnosis

What’s the greatest antidote for an old hypnosis? A current relationship with a more healing reality. A current relationship that breaks down that hypnosis. When that happens, like this amazing group of artists that I was working with, when that healing happens, we break the rules of safety that we made for ourselves.

Sometimes when we break those rules of safety out of a place of deep health and freedom, it’s like throwing a boomerang and you throw it and you forget about it, and an hour or two later, a day later, it hits you in the back of the head and knocks you down. It’s not conscious. You don’t know necessarily that’s why you feel that way. All of a sudden you feel an attack of self-hate or embarrassment.

That’s retribution and that’s that old part of you that is now being threatened because as you are getting healthier and more vulnerable, you are breaking that old childhood rule. And when that hits us we think, “Well what’s wrong with me?” And I tell people about this now when I lead workshops and I lead retreats, and there are certain points in the work that I do within my intensives with people. I ask a question of people and the question is, and it’s a fabulous, powerful question. (I’m going to be doing a whole episode on this question because it’s huge, it’s nuclear.) Here’s what it is. The question is, “What’s a part of yourself that you’re embarrassed to show your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your significant other, your date, your wife, your husband, your significant partner?”

What is the part of you, not a story from your past that you feel embarrassed about, but what’s an aspect of your personality that you feel most timid to reveal?

The Gift of Healing

When you get to that and you begin to reveal that, it’s a tremendous act (when we find those parts of ourselves), and this is the work that I do when I teach — to find those parts of ourselves and actually articulate the gift of this attribute that we were once so embarrassed about, to champion it and see it as our genius, as one of our greatest gifts, as that wild and silly enthusiasm is for me. When we do that, we can name it as a gift.

Our world changes, our intimacy life changes, and the people we’re attracted to change.

It’s a very powerful thing. When I work with people on this, I know that they might have this kind of experience of retribution or when they share this part of themselves, they might feel an intense embarrassment. So I tell people that this is part of the process and that it’s another sign of healing.

So nobody really teaches us enough that we are going to experience this ring of shame around these treasured parts of ourselves. So take a minute and think, what’s a part of you, a treasured, vulnerable part of you, that you’re timid to reveal that might actually be a treasure, but that there’s a ring of shame around? If there’s a ring of shame around that defines that it’s a treasure, because that ring would not be there if there wasn’t something precious that it was protecting.

Maybe it’s not fully developed, maybe it’s immature, maybe it hasn’t grown up yet, maybe it’s imperfect, but that does not mean it’s not holy. That does not mean it’s not precious. That doesn’t mean it is not an absolutely essential part of your next steps in your intimacy journey.

A is Natural, B is a Sign

So I share this information so that you can know that this ring of shame, A) is natural, B) is a sign that you are entering close to the core, most beautiful, precious parts of you. Also that it needs a tremendous amount of compassion. And when you hit that ring of shame, the questions to ask are, what is the gift? What is the treasure beneath it? How have I not seen that as a treasure? How have I been taught it’s not a treasure? But how might it be a treasure? And who are the people in my life who have helped me find that part of me and with whom that part of me feels safe to breathe and be alive around?

So these are rich, rich questions and I’m just speaking about this to tell about a very important dynamic that we don’t get taught about so that we can hold ourselves with more compassion and insight and wisdom when we hit that inner-sanctum and that ring of shame or embarrassment or defensiveness around it. There’s such richness at that juncture, such importance. And I promise you at that juncture, hidden behind those defenses, behind that shame, is a part of you that is a treasure.

And these are some of the ways that this intimacy journey is so rich and so beautiful and such an adventure of self-discovery. And if you’re with someone who is safe, if you’re not it’s not gonna work; but if you’re with someone who’s safe, you can begin to share those parts of you. And when you do, you will grow into yourself in so much deeper and richer ways, as well as grow more fully into this relationship. Whichever one it might be.

The last thing I want to say is be gentle with yourself, because as you do this work, you may hit points of retribution. So you go gently with yourself, you’re compassionate with yourself. If you do hit points of retribution, share with friends, but just know that these are part of the process of the liberation of your deepest gifts. Thanks so much for listening.


This is Part Two of a two-part series. Find Part One here.

Transcript Notes: This article is essentially a direct transcription of my talk or interview. Subscribe and listen to the podcast here.

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