Tikkun Magazine, Winter 2011

Authentic Vulnerability and Deep-Rooted Healing

by Julie Oxenberg

I'm increasingly struck by the realization that so much of what currently ails and threatens our world is associated with a misperception about the realm from which the greatest source of power, security, and value actually emanates; rather than recognizing this to be the realm of spirit, particularly the human spirit, humanity tenaciously clings to the belief that "real" protection, strength, and worth can only come from the realm of material itself. Of course, the result of this misperception -- prioritizing material acquisition and "strength" above all else, the very definition of idolatry -- only leaves individuals and nations less secure and less fulfilled, and currently threatens the very sustainability of our earth's ecosystem altogether. Thus, healing this core misperception, along with the entrenched layers of fear that keep it in place, is key to healing and transforming our world.

My clinical work as a psychologist with individuals, couples, and groups, as well as my participation in conflict transformation and healing processes with groups in conflict, particularly Israelis and Palestinians, has reinforced my perceptions about power. Although as people we're often afraid to let ourselves be vulnerable -- fearing this may render us weak, not in control, too easily taken advantage of, ridiculed or made fun of, etc. -- I've never actually witnessed an expression of authentic vulnerability result in any of these feared outcomes. There's something about a display of emotional authenticity, or "unarmed truth," that, by and large, inherently commands respect, elicits compassion, connects, and disarms. In fact, such open vulnerability is the primary emotional state in which deep-rooted healing can occur, within an individual, between people, or between members of groups in conflict; thus, it is actually a state of great power.

In contrast, politically, a highly defended emotional posture (such as bravado and fearmongering on the one hand, or woodenness and over-accommodation on the other) generally elicits the impulse to defend, and also elicits support for the material tools of such an impulse (e.g., military weaponry, money) and respect for those who best know how to acquire and wield those tools ... as perhaps such a posture should.

The need to evolve human consciousness enough to inspire a fundamental shift in global priorities at this historic juncture is urgent. Thus, it is no longer adequate for spiritual progressives to simply write and talk about elevating consciousness or promoting healing and transformation; we must engage in such healing ourselves. To do so, we could introduce methods of group healing (such as the Core Energetics derived "Radical Aliveness" process, or the Internal Family Systems process adapted for groups, as two examples) into particular gatherings and actually work to diminish our blocks to trusting the power associated with authentic vulnerability and "unarmed truth," within us and within our movement, thereby rendering such previously trapped energy available for tikkun olam. Only then can we become truly credible, embodied, perhaps even audacious advocates for the trustworthiness of relying more prominently upon the power of spirit in the world. Our planet and its people desperately need this trust; as spiritual progressives we must cultivate the faith to light the way.

Julie Oxenberg is a clinical psychologist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a founding member of the Psychology of Peace program at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology.

Source Citation: Oxenberg, Julie. 2011. Authentic Vulnerability and Deep-Rooted Healing. Tikkun 26(1): online exclusive


tags: Psychology, Spiritual Politics  
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