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Vulnerability:  The Roots of
Compassion
Copyright © 2009 by Richard A. Grossman, Ph.D.  ·  All Rights reserved  ·  E-Mail: ragrossman@voicelessness.com
When I was four years old, I woke up in the middle of a severe thunderstorm, crawled out of bed and knocked on my parents’ door.  My mother got up, took me to the living room, and she sat in an old, overstuffed gray armchair.  I buried myself in her lap—I remember the geometric pattern of her flannel pajamas--and covered my eyes and ears, while she looked at the brilliant flashes through the bay window, not flinching when thunder shook the house.  Somehow, in the morning I found myself in bed again, the thunderstorm having passed, and life continuing as usual.

This is one of the warmest and fondest memories I have of childhood, a childhood in which I asked for very little in the way of comfort because, in part, little seemed available.   Perhaps because of my early experience and my natural curiosity, I often found myself wondering (and still do):  what if things really weren’t o.k.?  What if no one or no answers could provide comfort?

Of course, many people feel inherently safer than I do.  Some experienced a greater level of security in their childhoods, never questioning its very foundation, and somehow this carries over to their adult life.  Others have an unflappable belief in a compassionate God, and have faith that all things, even horrific things, happen for good reason, however un-understandable.  Still others, perhaps most, feel safe because, psychologically speaking, they are so well defended.  In large part, I suspect the very nature of our individual brains, our genetic makeup, in conjunction with life experience, determines how safe we feel in the world.

But as we learned two weeks ago, even the strongest, or most defended of us sometimes feel unsafe—events happen for which there is no immediate comfort.  Last Tuesday, many of us missed our mother’s laps, the calm and soothing words and an
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Voicelessness and Emotional Survival

Vulnerability:  The Roots of
Compassion
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