Jane Arie Baldwin

Personal Tools for Living at the Highest Levels of You

Tag: vulnerability

Simple Guidance for Getting On With It


From a very early age, those in control told us to, “Hold it in.” “Don’t take everything so personally.”, “Act like a man!” These phrases were programmed into us during our early imprinting, teaching us to ignore our emotions and numb any sensation of feeling.

Feelings and emotions once touted as the realm of hippy-dippy, touchy-feely types, are now part of the neurobiological research mainstream. The science is clear. Neuroscience research has identified the limbic system in the brain as the place that processes incoming information and outgoing reactions. The amygdala is the information hub that receives messages and stimuli from our five senses and organs and also, in part, determines our emotional responses.

Our brains are exploding like fireworks with all of the outside stimuli we absorb and process daily. We’ve been programmed – for lack of a better word – to “Hold it all in.” When someone asks us how we feel we say “fine.” The truth is, we don’t know what we feel.


We play a game of avert and pivot, looking happy so others will keep their distance. Meanwhile, we crave connection. When we do unload, we dump onto our nearest and dearest confidants, asking the ones we love most to help carry the heaviest of our loads.

A standard response when emotions get triggered is to stuff them and keep them inside you. When they get stuffed, they get shoved deep down like the batting in a bear at Build-A-Bear Workshop. There is no room for emotions happening in real time because we are still holding on to those from last week, last year, or even as far back as childhood.

Those emotions and reactions then trigger and activate many different areas in our brains, traveling through our bodies affecting millions of sensory responses from body sweats, to stomach cramps, to eye twitching. Notice what happens to you physically and mentally next time your emotions surge. Follow them. Notice where you hold anger and anxiety in your body.


We wear the armor of protection against having to feel. How can we feel, after all? There’s no space. We’re like voodoo dolls that have been poked and prodded by life’s unavoidable circumstances.

At least at Build-A-Bear, they remember the love part, having a child kiss the little red heart before inserting it into the bear’s chest.

Acknowledge the protection you once needed, the reason you put the armor on in the first place, and then get on with it.

The key is the breath. Like a pinball hitting all the marks and lighting up the board, the breath moves through the body and activates places in you that have been dormant. Notice, how is my breath flowing? Is it evenly going in and out of my body? Or choppy? Do I have a deep inhale and exhale? Or is it shallow? The breath, like wind patterns in the weather, moves with the currents that guide our day.

A thick shell of armor keeps us from being vulnerable to attack. We wear masks or develop elaborate facades that we hide behind. We create these metaphorical expressions of ourselves to help us cope. The thoughts and internal images we build guide how people perceive us out in the world. We wear around so much of this armor that we’ve even, for the most part, forgotten how to feel.

What is the armor you wear?

It took me many years to recognize my armor and to see how I hid behind its cover, averting people or any deep, meaningful connection. I could not see it clearly until cervical cancer reeled me into myself. Then I saw that the person I projected into the world was an imitation of the person I left behind at about the age of thirteen.


Vulnerability, feeling your feelings, is a vital power center, a key to experiencing the kind of authentic connection that deep down we crave, even as we deny love because we tried it and it didn’t work for us before, in the past.

We need to brave feeling the vulnerability so that we can shed our armor, take off the mask, tear down the façade that we created in the past. There is so much to feel that is good, full of love and joy, hope and happiness. Herein lies the key to your power.






Now is the time to see the internal connections that have been there all along. Empirical evidence is coming forth to substantiate claims that were discovered long ago by many ancient cultures. Updated ideas in neurobiology research prove these claims and continue to show us how much more we have to learn about our bodies and minds and their inextricable connection.

At the heart of these what we are now learning from science is to experience authenticity by being true to yourself. Know yourself, and you will not have to dump your troubles on your best friend, you will not have to remind yourself and others of the pain you suffered as a child and continue to suffer. You will feel your feelings in real time, at the moment, and you will be free.











Perceived Weakness: Break the Cycle, Open Your Heart


Ruby 2011

For some people, our grandparents and parents taught us not to feel, that feeling your feelings is not safe, it hurts too much, will make you go crazy.  Now we are telling our children to acknowledge their feelings and express how they feel.  We are teaching them that feelings are a form of information. Information that can help them navigate through the emotional landscape.  We are teaching them that the more connected they can stay to their feelings the more centered and self confident they will be as people. 

A couple of summers ago while visiting my parents, my mother uttered a phrase I’d heard many times come from her mother’s mouth.

“You know, you’re letting that little girl manipulate you.”  It could have been my Granny talking to my Mom some thirty-plus years ago about me.  She used the same tone and had the same stone faced look as she said it.

My then nine-year old daughter and I gone to visit my parents and I had a dilemma.  I was faced with an old and I believe misguided assumption, that kids are the problem, the manipulators, the ones who get away with everything, the ungrateful ones.

In that moment I had to make one of two choices:

1) I could treat my daughter the way kids for generations have been treated and see her as manipulator and conniver who needs to learn to control her behavior.

2) I could try the opposite, a little empathy parenting — just to see what happens and then compare the two outcomes.

From the old way described above children need to be controlled and disciplined first then listened to later. I’m not condoning a free-for-all here, I’m just saying that when the concept of punishment is overused anyone treated like that will become immune to the punishment and stop thinking for themselves. This mode of behavior in the extreme will end up as some sort of reactionary rebellion or worse.

From the empathic view, a kid at nine years old is still very connected to their feelings and the waves of feeling flowing from others.  Their ability to pick up information on this subtle level often gets them in trouble because they don’t use reasoning, or an overintelectualized brain to filter the information.  They act on feelings, on impulse and this usually translates into ‘bad behavior,’ when most of the time all they want is to be heard, to be acknowledged.

At the heart of the idea, “You’re letting that little girl manipulate you,” is the idea vulnerability is weakness and weakness is shameful (as author Brene Brown so eloquently articulates.)

After trying both parenting styles and comparing outcomes I have found that vulnerability has become my compass. Not the old idea that vulnerability is weak. On the contrary, vulnerability is packed with so much information, so many emotional cues and feelings that can be navigated and explored – it almost feels like I’m an archaeologist in a vast ancient tomb.

Meaning, when emotions are exploding out of us like bottle rockets they are rife with information. Like the cache of an ancient tomb this information can be vast, rich, mysterious and also be harboring some really ancient stuff. A lot of this stuff is part of an ages-old cycle of shame, guilt, punishment and judgment that is not helpful or useful for happiness and connection.

Since the time I started this blog post over two years ago, I have seen my daughter come into her own – sure of herself when her boundaries are pushed and confident in her awareness of her own emotions. Sure she’s got teen angst, the closed bedroom door and the eyerolls are coming in more and more frequently. I’m okay with all of that as long as she stays true to who she is.

I am also happy to report that in the last couple of years I have watched my parents transform. The main reason I had not yet published this blog is because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings in writing about this. In the last few years they have become more adept at the empathy parenting, or grand-parenting thing than I ever imagined.

Mom grew up in a stern and rigid environment with little kindness and understanding. She never had the permission  or the roadmap she needed to respond with empathy. Like me, she is working to break the cycle under which she was raised. Ruby, Mom, Me – our relationship is ever-evolving, each generation meeting the next with the love and lessons we need to open our hearts a little more.

This new approach has given us all the freedom to respond in a way that keeps our own emotions and energy intact. Our awareness of the power of vulnerability and the necessity of striving for an open heart continues to develop our relationships together in new and exciting ways.




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