Interview: Fiachra O’Sullivan

What is vulnerability to you?
Vulnerability for me is to feel. To feel sad, fear, abandoned, powerless, alone, rejected, and shame.

What vulnerability feels like to you?
Vulnerable me is ever-present. It is me as my most indivisible self.

Why are you practicing vulnerability?
It’s life without any mask or filter. It’s the best way for me to feel alive. To feel connected to me. It’s the currency of connection. No vulnerability. No connection. No love.

What’s your response to a violation of you being vulnerable?
I am imperfect and I react imperfectly. I don’t expect others to be perfect either. So even if I react in ways that are not helpful…which I do. And even if another reacts in a way that is hurtful to me and is not helpful. I can give myself and them a chance to heal.

Was vulnerability encouraged growing up?
Yes and no. My Dad was an alcoholic. And went into recovery. He became a therapist. He was part of Osho’s tribe for a while. He practiced bioenergetics, primal scream therapy and more. I was encouraged to express my feelings. As people thought it should be done back in the 70s. There was a lot of emphasis on expressing anger and having cleansing experiences. I found this way of accessing and expressing vulnerability. Invasive, disempowering and scary.

So I shutdown, even more, when I was a kid. To stay away from these overwhelming methods. I lived with a lot of shame, sadness, and fear due to alcoholism of my father and my mother’s pain. I swallowed my grief and fear. Was I encouraged to be vulnerable during those early years? I may have been. But I created a strategy of holding my pain in. A strategy to survive the pain, the uncertainty, and sadness that engulfed my home.

Who is supportive of vulnerability in your family?
My wife. She is my rock. She is always there for me. I can turn to her when I am scared when I am sad when I feel ashamed when I feel powerless. She is always, always there. We just want our journey together to last as long as possible. There’s that experience of impermanence creeping in again. As I touch my gratitude for my wife, for my family and our vulnerability saturated life together. She is a couples therapist too, by the way.

Any mentors along the way?

  • My mom – she could help people move from reactivity to vulnerability like it was a Jedi mind trick.
  • My Dad – intensely committed to creating space for vulnerable expression.
  • Esselen – I lived in Esselen 2003-04. I often think of Esselen as my third parent.
  • Dance – Soul Motion, 5- rhythms, Vinn Marti, Zuza Engler, Gabriel Roth.
  • Gestalt as an Awareness Practice – Chris Price.
  • Sue Johnson the creator of Emotionally Focused Therapy.
  • Hakomi and all the Hakomi master teachers – a model of experiential psychotherapy. To turn towards the present moment experience with curiosity.

 
The Poets.
David Whyte. John O’Donoghu. Rumi, Hafz, Rilke, Mary Oliver. Seamus Heaney

What book(s) that helped with this?
Fiction is best – because it brings me to the vulnerable experience:

 
Non-Fiction:

 
Any advice to a person struggling to be vulnerable?
Find a safe space with someone who can be a witness and gently guide you. Towards the essential vulnerable you. I have no doubt. Once you pass through the gates you will like who you meet there. I would also tell them to watch this and listen to it every day.

By the way, I teach a 7-day free writing class, click this link to learn more. I also sent a short, personal, clear letter. With a manageable selection (3 items). Of engaging, practical, and personal stories. To make your day a little more pleasant, click this link to learn more.