I wholeheartedly believe in the power of questioning in caregiving.* I recently had a conversation about vulnerability with a respected colleague of mine, a holistic psychotherapist. We began by listing the meanings of it, working with a dictionary definition. The full definition was surprisingly exhaustive, but the more familiar synonyms included:

  • raw
  • tender
  • exposed
  • over-powered
  • emotional
  • weak
  • needy
  • easy to hurt

Certainly not traits that many of us cultivate, especially during caregiving. What good is a needy caregiver, right? Wouldn’t we rather have traits like strength, autonomy**, and having it all together?

Then we looked further. Toward the bottom of the long list of synonyms came the ones that we found to be the most interesting:

  • counting on
  • humbled
  • forgivable
  • mortal
  • open
  • perceptive
  • receptive
  • accessible
  • responsive
  • sensible
  • sensitive
  • sentient

These could easily be a list of survival skills for caregiving.

  • Yes! As a caregiver, I did WANT to know who and what I could count on.
  • I WANTED to feel humbled by my role, to recognize and be comfortable with MY OWN mortality.
  • In my relationships, then and now, I want to be receptive, responsive, and accessible.
  • In my actions I want to be sensible, sensitive, and sentient (or knowing.)

In sum, this says to me that intimacy and interdependence DO make for a spirit-strong** and resilient person, the sort who can move WITH the twists and turns of caregiving and life, healing relationships, caregiving collaboratively***, and inventing new ways of managing life’s intricacies. THAT sort of caregiving  requires a degree of vulnerability.As if that wasn’t enough, other questions then presented themselves:

  • Isn’t vulnerability easier to manage for a person with faith? And,
  • Do we carry our childhood vulnerabilities into adulthood unnecessarily?

I saw the roots of my questionable relationship with vulnerability, and also that I could reframe it as a strength, giving me the ability to move forward with greater ease.
A final question came up as I wrote:

  • Then what is the relationship between vulnerability and healthy boundaries?

For sure I can say No to whomever or whatever I like, and there are times for doing so. But perhaps I’d better be sure that my No isn’t limiting my ability to live life fully, or snuffing out my opportunities to say Yes.
Caregiving is guaranteed to offer a steady supply of vulnerabilities, so might one goal be to allow caregiving to have its way with you****, knowing that vulnerabilities will show up? What do You think? What has been the role of vulnerability in Your life up to now? Could it be a source of strength for you as you move forward in your caregiving?

*For more on Questions for Caregivers, click here

**For more on Autonomy in Caregiving, click here

***For more on Uplifting Spirit During Caregiving, click here

****For more on Acceptance, click here


by Holly Whiteside,