That’s what Jack told me years ago and it is a statement that has fascinated me ever since.
Maybe 10 years ago, I was taking a role of law class with Jack and Barry Berkman. I was much newer to the Center then and did not know Jack or Barry as well as I do now. The class met in a series of evening classes from 6 – 9 much as Support and Development does these days. There was a role play of a divorce case. At some point during the evening, something clicked for me and I slipped into the role of the husband. When I say slipped, I mean I completely became him. I fully felt the anger and frustration I expected he felt and I held back nothing. When it was over, I was mortified. I felt as if I had exposed myself in front of these people I hardly knew and was seriously concerned about what they must think of me.
I took the train home alone and barely slept that night I was so worried.
The next day, I called Jack and we talked about it. That is when he made the above statement. When I responded in surprise, “What do you mean?” He said, “Vulnerability can be like stubbing your toe. You can hop around on one foot screaming Ow! Ow! Ow! I stubbed my toe. It hurts, it hurts, it hurts!!!” OR, you could say, “Ow, I stubbed my toe and it hurts.” And move on with your day.
This conversation changed my life (Jack doesn’t remember it). It was in this conversation that I realized I have a choice about how I respond to things. I do not have to react in the same way to the same set of stimuli. I could experiment with another internal response. Sure, stubbing my toe hurts. Being vulnerable is hard. The question for me was now, could I learn something from that? If I could open myself up to the learning even in the face of the fear or the hurt, I thought that could be a game changer. It turns out it was.