Definition of vulnerable
1: capable of being physically or emotionally wounded
2: open to attack or damage : vulnerable to criticism
During my last discourse with my mother, I asked her if she could just love me. She hung up the phone. In that moment, I mentally returned to my childhood. I was so desperate for an answer, I would have melted into my seat if she had simply said, “Of course I love you.” I asked myself, “Why at the age of 54 does that still matter to me?” My response, “…mothers are supposed to love their children.”
Later that day, she called while I was teaching, knowing I would not answer the phone. She left a voice message that stated she doesn’t know how to love me. She also said she doesn’t know what love is. Although I believe her it doesn’t stop me from desiring her love. It also makes me want to love her more, so she can see what it is like. Unfortunately, she refuses to be vulnerable enough with me to give or accept love.
I believe that ALL children deserve to be loved. Instead, what we see in our society is children who are exposed to neglect and abuse. What I realize now more than ever as someone who experienced it, a mother, and a teacher – those children grow up and there is a residual affect from that vulnerability that manifests all kinds of mental and physical issues.
It is important to begin the conversation with adults about their childhood because the root cause may be due to toxic stress from their childhood.
Toxic stress is a term used by psychologists and developmental neurobiologists to describe the kinds of experiences, particularly in childhood, that can affect brain architecture and brain chemistry. They typically are experiences that are bad for an individual during development such as severe abuse. Toxic stress has been defined also in terms of violence, other sorts of experience that a child can have that can be very powerful in a negative way on the brain.