Vulnerability. It is a scary word even to adults who understand what it means to be vulnerable. However, to troubled young men not only is the concept incredibly difficult to understand but it is also the key to their healing.
What Is Vulnerability?
One of the best descriptions on what it means to be vulnerable has to be Brené Brown’s TED Talk. She spent over six years studying what it means to be vulnerable and how it is important. Her conclusion is feelings of shame and fear prevent someone from accessing vulnerability. Her research showed her that the people who are able to overcome these negative feelings are the ones who are also able to believe in their worth. This sense of worthiness allows them to be vulnerable and express themselves in healing ways.
Why Does Vulnerability Matter To Troubled Teens?
If you have a troubled teen or know one, then you know how much they struggle with self-worth. Quite often those feelings stem from a lack of connection as well as feeling shame or fear. Brown says, “We live in a vulnerable world” so for teens who are struggling they develop a real sense of feeling out of place in that world.
The Root Of Addiction
The result, according to Brown, is we attempt to “numb vulnerability.” Her proof is how many addictions are prevalent in our society. Of course, our troubled teens are looking to avoid feeling hurt, pain, and loss or longing. However as we, and our teens, are numbing what we do not want to feel we also numb positive emotions which Brown identifies as the start of a variety of addictions.
Teens who have become what we understand as troubled will need the specialized services only found in a residential treatment setting. The reality is for a teen to successfully complete any treatment program they have to access all those negative emotions in order to begin to heal them. They have to find the courage to be vulnerable.
Parenting With Vulnerability
Parents, while you want to be the one your teen talks to this is one of those moments you are probably the worst person for the job. The hard truth is some of the issues your teen has often have their roots from within the family. It does not necessarily mean you are, or have been, a bad parent but it does mean your troubled teen needs extra help unraveling his issues and his place in the family dynamic from those who are specifically trained to provide it. Therefore, as a parent it you need to be vulnerable enough to ask for help with your troubled teen.
Having a troubled teen and asking for help with a troubled teen can be difficult when parents attempt to numb their own vulnerability in the situation. Brown says the key is to avoid feeling the ‘catastrophe’ of having a troubled teen and expressing gratitude there is help available.