I have used the word vulnerable repeatedly, and to be honest I don't know if I like it. I have discussed with firefighters and paramedics the need to be vulnerable and the need to share of themselves. But I don't think that it translates well.
Vulnerability in psychobabble land is to have your guard down, you can be fully yourself within and/or with others. It is a 'state of being' needed to do work and heal and kind of a requirement. Vulnerability though in any other part of the world, generally means something more sinister, something more weak or exposed. I think if someone I didn't know well told me to be vulnerable and my understanding was weakness I'd think, "kiss my ass" and then just check out from what they were saying for awhile.
How about trust? Is that a word we can use? Inherently, we all are always looking for this whether within ourselves or within our relationships. Internally asking "can I be or share these part of my self?" Trust is the thing that allows us to be the psychobabble version of vulnerable, without having to use a word that shuts people down or off. When one has been hurt, betrayed, cast aside, abandoned, injured, scared, sad, disappointed, etc. within a lifetime it can be hard to trust, to share of our self.
So you won't be shocked to learn that Firefighter/EMS personalities generally (or always) try to 'test' this theory out. Really though, this is a way of trying to 'control it.' A "you can't hurt me, I hurt myself" or my favorite line of "at least if I pinch myself I can control how much it hurts." An example would be they may feel better one day and go to 'test it out' by spending the next self sabotaging and then sit back on their haunches and declare, "see, I knew that was a fluke, I really am just f*cked up or I knew it wouldn't last long." They may test this in a relationship that has been worn down by years of sleepless nights, emotional disconnection and resentment, and after doing a grand gesture that is not received with the appreciation they had hoped for think, "I know we are done now, they don't care or why don't they see what I'm trying to do?" Problem is, these 'trust tests' are faulty.
If you want to test something, what do you do? Well in school you learn a bunch of info, study and then take a test; you have time to prepare. When you are running a diagnostic you start with a list of symptoms and begin ruling things in and out from years of education, experience and practice; you have time to prepare. So, why oh why would this be any different? Why would you 'test' the strength or fortitude of your inner trust on a day or a moment? Why would you 'test' your trust in a relationship based on a day or a moment?
When you are rebuilding trust or gaining trust in whatever area you are, it takes time, patience, practice and you need time to prepare. You need time to stumble, you need time to hurt, you need time for successes, you need time to take emotional risks and you need time to learn. All of these aspects go into the other 'tests' in life and 'testing trust' is no different.
Cody Todd Psy.D., L.C.P.C., N.C.C.
Red Tail Clinical Counseling