"Stories are medicine. I have been taken with stories since I heard my first. They have such power; they do not require that we do, be, act anything - we need only listen."
-Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D.
-Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D.
Holy Vulnerability Batman
Cue, another movie I was not jumping out of my skin to see.
Yes, The LEGO Movie completely surprised me and became a huge source of inspiration in my life, but I am just not that into superheroes.
But as it was released while I was in the middle of leading my first participants through the UnBLOCKing Your Creative Magic E-Course, I kind of felt obligated to stay in the loop on all things brick-related, and it became a valentine’s day movie date with my husband.
And once again, I was blown away, because they told a STORY.
This time the story was about vulnerability.
And besides embracing imperfection and remembering my creativity, vulnerability has been a huge arena and growth area in my life.
Let’s just say, Batman gave me some uncomfortable knowing laughter moments.
You see, at the turning point in the movie, when Batman is apologizing, asking for help, and admitting that someone else is right… those three right there, I know how hard those are. When it takes him almost a minute to get out the words, “I’m sorry,” and then he shouts excitedly afterwards, “I did it!” Oh, how I know that feeling.
I don’t think I can talk about a movie about vulnerability without being vulnerable myself. I also believe becoming vulnerable is an on-going practice, so here we go…
My husband and I have been married for 12 years, and it wasn’t pretty at the beginning.
At the end of our first year, divorce was truly on the table.
It was probably the trying to keep it all together and pretend as if we were invulnerable that allowed it to get that bad, but once it was that bad, we were finally desperate enough to tell our families. And we were finally humbled enough to realize we couldn’t do it on our own and ask for help with many prayers and marriage counseling.
Because authenticity and faith were the things that were our saving graces, they became my foundational values going forward. I will admit, my getting a degree in Marriage and Family Therapy during our healing years certainly didn’t hurt either, and I just smile with compassion now when I see couples in my practice and they tell me they probably waited until it was too late. I know how easily that can happen, and how hard it can be to admit we all need some help.
And that’s the story of Batman, helping us to have some compassion for the struggle we all have to need others, and thus feel vulnerable to loss. Here are four of my creative take-aways:
1. Allowing and expressing vulnerable feelings can lead to some of the most connecting art on canvas and in life we could ever create.
As Batman says to Alfred in the movie, “I don’t talk about feelings. I don’t have any. I’ve never seen one. I don’t feel anything emotionally except rage.”
Oh yes, that was me.
Anger was what I was great at expressing.
In fact, I had so few skills I took to physical aggression at times in my desperation to be heard and understood.
And those more uncomfortable hard to feel vulnerable emotions underneath, I truly didn’t know them.
It would only be years later, when I became a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator in Brené Brown’s work that I would realize how limited my emotional vocabulary and understanding was, and how poorly I was doing at expressing my needs.
It would be nice if life was like the scene when Batman is having a feeling after his adopted son has successfully retrieved the battery from Superman’s lair, and the computer tells him, “That feeling is pride, sir.”
It would be so nice if we all had computers to help us identify our feelings, even though of course Batman chose to ignore the computer’s message.
And I think that is what we so often do.
There were many days when I was building a creation and only afterwards, often times thanks to the compassionate eye of a friend, would I notice an unacknowledged feeling lurking in my creation.
What I discovered in my year of building (In 2016 I did an experiment to see if I could increase my creativity by building a creation out of LEGO bricks every day), however, was that it was the days that I was intensely feeling feelings, whether comfortable ones or uncomfortable ones, and that I actually allowed myself to intentionally welcome those feelings into my creations, that others reported feeling the most connected to the piece.
As Brené Brown tells us in her book Daring Greatly, “Vulnerability isn’t good or bad: It’s not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light, positive experience. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness.”
2. Coming back to the present moment and appreciating the current creative process is what will keep you going when you feel vulnerable and fearful.
I definitely related when the cloud computer is speaking to Batman after he has kept his friends and family from being able to participate in the battle with him, “What a bad guy, trying to protect by pushing them away… Are they really the ones you were protecting?”
I related because yes, when I pushed away, and sometimes it was literal, it was because I was scared of getting hurt, scared of losing.
And so, in a way, I created disconnection and loss in my marriage, trying to protect myself in advance for what I figured must be coming.
Brené Brown talks about shields we use to try and keep us from feeling vulnerable, and I was definitely employing one there.
She says in Daring Greatly that, “We’re trying to beat vulnerability to the punch. We don’t want to be blindsided by hurt. We don’t want to be caught off-guard, so we literally practice being devastated or never move from self-elected disappointment.”
Batman’s wisdom rings true at the end of the movie, “Losing people is part of life, but that doesn’t mean you stop letting them in.”
What I discovered is that, even though it’s hard to choose love and vulnerability every day in my marriage, I still have to keep coming back to the present and saying, even if I don’t get this for as many years as I would like, I have this now, and that’s enough.
And that’s what I also found had to happen in the creative process.
It was especially true when I started working on translating what I had learned from my year of building into my e-course I created called UnBLOCKing Your Creative Magic.
While the creation of the course was in progress, I often told myself stories of how I was wasting my time because no one would be interested in this course.
So many stories I told myself to keep from actually doing the work because I was trying to protect myself from feeling disappointed.
And the truth is, when I came back to and enjoyed the creative process for what it was… when I appreciated the video I ended up creating, or how I thought of a new way to share that idea, or made that lesson page look great, that was when the magic happened.
It didn’t matter what happened in the future, because it was more than enough right then.
We often don’t realize that the joy is truly in those moments, not if or when the thing is successful, or if we get to have a relationship for years down the road, what we have is now, and
I don’t know about you, but I want to be enjoying the now.
Whether or not something works out, it will be the fact that you enjoyed it while on the journey that will help you for the inevitable losses in life.
3. The ability to be creative comes from the ability to know and love your very human and very vulnerable self.
As Brené Brown tells us, ““Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
I’m so thankful my fears of being vulnerable didn’t push my husband away entirely, and that I was able to experience a shift just a Batman did.
Because the truth was just as Joker told Batman, “You know for once Batman is right. I’m not your greatest enemy, your greatest enemy is you.”
I was my greatest enemy, not my husband who I had gotten so mad at so many times, who I thought didn’t get it.
It was me, who couldn’t love myself, who didn’t know myself and what I was truly feeling, who was living in fear and scarcity instead of love and abundance.
Brené tells us in Daring Greatly, “We either own our stories (even the messy ones), or we stand outside of them – denying our vulnerabilities and imperfections, orphaning the parts of us that don’t fit in with who/what we think we’re supposed to be, and hustling for other people’s approval of our worthiness.”
Orphans, that’s a big theme with Batman and his being orphaned when his parents were murdered, and then in this movie his adoption of the orphan Robin.
And often, it is us who does more orphaning than anyone can ever do to us.
I am so thankful that I was able to co-create a different ending to the path our marriage was heading down.
And that took me embracing all the parts of myself, my neediness, my fears, my anxieties, my jealousies, and not allowing them to rule, but allowing them to be loved and heard and shown some compassion.
You will have a lot more creative energy if you embrace exactly who you are.
When I stopped fighting or hiding and instead came to know and love myself, that is when I could actually create instead of being ruled by feeling leaking out.
I could own and make creative loving choices and truly change in ways that I could have never dreamed.
And it was then that I could have compassion for my spouse, who was never my greatest enemy, but truly my greatest gift and mirror. Which means that I also, am my greatest gift.
4. When you access and practice vulnerability, you can then co-create, and have some of your most creative and powerful acts.
Brené Brown says in her Power of Vulnerability TED Talk, “Vulnerability is the only bridge to build connection.”
Destroying we can do all by ourselves, but the Batman movie ends with connection, just as The LEGO Movie did.
Last time the connection was taking a hand, the little claw hands fitting together, this time it is literally piecing themselves together head to foot, to form a human bridge to bring the city back together.
That is what vulnerability feels like to me to be honest, it’s like giving people handholds to me, ways to access me.
And that definitely feels uncomfortable, but otherwise I never get close or have true connection.
I will never forget when a friend told me, after I started practicing my value of authenticity, that she also had struggled with her marriage, and that if she had known my marriage was not as perfect as it looked she would have connected with me.
I missed out on a chance of connection and of giving and receiving help because I had been disconnected.
None of us can do this life by ourselves. I need people. And people matter to me. And people need me. And that’s okay. (If this sounds like a pep talk or mantra I’m working on, that’s kind of because it is).
I might still be trying to get past the lie our culture seems to spout, that Batman puts so well to Joker in the beginning of the movie, “I don’t need you. I don’t need anyone.”
We think we are successful when we don’t need anyone and can be hyper-independent, but from what I’ve read and heard from many sources, the truth is that true success looks like inter-dependence, that is how we are actually created to be.
And yet, I still have to practice creating handholds.
Even recently I almost didn’t put a need on Facebook because I knew I could fill it if I had too, but that’s not the point.
As the movie tells us, we are all in this together, we do need each other, and letting others in is a strength.
I would have never made it 12 years of marriage without lots of help and I can’t imagine having done half the things I’ve done in my life without my awesome husband.
And the same goes with my 366 days of building creativity. I needed other people, whether for inspiration or support or encouragement. Even if people didn’t know I was leaning on them, like with my creative courage quotes (what I called my quotes on the subject of creativity), I was.
Co-creating is how we were meant to do this life, and we definitely build better together.
This is part two in a three part series on the LEGO movies.
Creativity and The LEGO Movie
Creativity and Ninjago
If you want to play and UnBLOCK Your Creative Magic, I'd love for you to join us 11/2/17 for the 8-week e-course.
I'd love to hear your story.
I'd love to remind you that your vulnerability is a strength and help you to love your magical self even more.
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