Mental Health & Counseling

A Journey to 11.3493° N, 142.1996° E

December 22, 2021

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vul·​ner·​a·​ble |  \ ˈvəl-n(ə-)rə-bəl, ˈvəl-nər-bəl  \ willingness to show emotion or to allow one’s weaknesses to be seen or known; willingness to risk being emotionally hurt.

trans·​par·​ent |  \ tran(t)s-ˈper-ən(t)-sē   \ open; frank; candid

au·​then·​tic |  \ ə-ˈthen-tik   , ȯ-  \ representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself or to the person identified.

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 Somewhere near the island of Guam, in the long empty stretch of ocean between Hawaii and the Philippines, lies a trench that holds the title as the deepest part of the ocean. This is called the Marianas Trench and inside of that is yet another cleft called the Challenger Deep. The trench extends for 1500 miles, is 43 miles wide, and descends to the depths of almost 7 miles. This depth is known as the hadopelagic zone (or simply, the hadal zone) and understanding is limited regarding this dark place. Few humans have ever been there. 

There is another mysterious hadopelagic zone located at the very core of the human spirit, the illusive center of the human heart. It is called the zone of vulnerability.

When a human becomes vulnerable it means, essentially, that they are taking a journey to the very center or core of their being. A well-known guide used in addiction counseling encourages clients to take a “fearless moral inventory”—this is one definition of a personal journey that requires vulnerability. Most of the time this place is where we meet God, whether this was our intention or not. At this depth transparency is found. Authenticity is close by. Our superficial facades and distracting behaviors are left behind, far above, up on the surface. We are now down in the depths where it is quiet and the current deep, runs strong. Often that current flows in the direction of the divine. For us to get down to that depth takes courage and bravery and a reckless abandonment of self. 

Possessing courage and bravery doesn’t mean we have no fear. Fear will likely be  lurking somewhere close, that shapeless mass, that monster of the mental depths. It threatens, it feints and darts, but that is where courage shows its true colors. 

The Bible alludes to the fact that is to our benefit to go deep and to embrace this vulnerable state (For my strength is made perfect in weakness; confess your faults one to another; the truth shall make you free). To truly confess our sins means we must become vulnerable and open ourselves up to others so they can see us how we really are. There is probably nothing more difficult than revealing a vice, a moral failure or a secret sin to a spouse, a close friend, a parent, or a child. But the revealing almost always draws hearts and souls closer. We are all human. We are all broken. Most of the time the person who you are becoming vulnerable to will look at you, take your hand, and figuratively say let’s walk together, I get it, I am just like you. But it takes something to get to that point. It takes something to get that deep. 

It helps to ask ourselves what exactly we fear will happen if we go deep into the hadal zone. Sometimes it helps to voice our fears aloud, say, when we’re out driving alone. Say to the quiet and attentive steering wheel: What would happen, or what would be the worst that could happen if I revealed my true being? What would be the fallout from telling someone how I really am? Realistically, what would people think of me? How many folks do you think struggle with exactly this same thing? Most often we fear some form of rejection, mockery, ostracization, or loss of confidence. In all honesty these fears almost never come true. Could we say they don’t exist in the hadal zone? 

In our mental health workshops, we often spend an evening or two doing what’s known as transformational chair work, a psychodynamic therapy. As different ones open their hearts and souls to deep personal work in the presence of witnesses, it inevitably draws everyone together in an amazing closeness. Until then we are all just newly made acquaintances. Afterwards we are closely knit in new understanding, empathy, and a keen sense of sister and brotherhood. 

One marriage counselor commented that couples do better with the truth than without the truth. That goes for anyone and everyone. Even as a husband, if you’ve messed up, your wife will appreciate hearing the honest truth rather than a denial or an avoidance of the subject. But that means going into deep water, the Challenger Deep, the hadal zone. The voices in our head tell us that sharks are circling and panic is close to the surface. The truth of the matter is that the currents that flow down in the zone flow inevitably and blessedly towards God and they carry healing waters and a balm for the soul.

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Personal introspection on vulnerability:

  • Do you consider yourself an open person, willing to reveal your deepest fears, struggles, hopes, and dreams? 
  • What do you fear about becoming vulnerable? 
  • What do you have to lose by becoming vulnerable? Is this a reasonable fear? 
  • Have you ever shared with anyone at any time the depths of your heart? 
  • Think about the times you’ve become the most vulnerable: what happened? How did it make you feel? What were the outcomes?  
  • Think of your closest and dearest relationships. Correlate that with the level of vulnerability in each. 

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