Let’s unpack this question through the lens of Shamanism. You are, in no simple terms, a Soul (Spirit) that is having a human experience. Part of that human experience means that you have chosen to manifest in physical form, accompanied by a voice that I will call the ego. In our earliest beginnings as humans, the ego served the purpose of keeping us out of harm's way by telling us to keep quiet while a predator walked by or was telling us to grab extra berries because the weather was getting colder. The ego continues to serve us in this manner, but in today’s Western society we have become almost completely identified with this voice, listening to it, and often believing every word. Many believe that they are the voice, and that the voice is them. We’ve become identified with our own thoughts, falsely believing that they are our real experience. In truth, our thoughts about an experience is the veil that prevents us from being present. It is through direct awareness of what is, that you can truly experience life in the present.
The ego begs you to stay unconscious because it cannot exist when you are present. The ego resists anything it deems as threatening to its own survival, and this resistance shows up as thought patterns that are based in fear rather than in love. These negatively-polarized thought patterns are the ego’s defense mechanism meant to keep you from functioning at a higher level of awareness. For when you become aware, you begin to recognize the ego, and once you can glimpse the ego, its hold over your experience of reality begins to dissolve. You can see the ego’s defenses operating quite strongly when it comes to feelings of vulnerability. The ego falls into a series of often-untrue or unknowable assumptions that cascaded into further assumptions that keep you focused on anything but the truth of the experience - the truth of what is. Just as a raindrop does not fall to the Earth in disbelief that it has been pushed out of the cloud, you too can be in acceptance of what is, rather be resistant to it. As you find yourself caught out in the rain, while it’s true that your clothes are wet and you are cold, resistance to what is will show up as disbelief, resentment, annoyance, anger, blame, etc. The ego can convince you that you shouldn’t be cold and wet, yet you are and this cannot be!
I shared some of what my ego was telling me as I sat down to write, “Who are you to write about vulnerability? You hate being vulnerable!” What this voice is really saying is that, by expressing myself in written word, I am exposing myself to public criticism and if others were to dislike my writing, that must mean they don’t like me: “If they don’t like me, that must mean there is something wrong with me. And, if there’s something wrong with me, I must be a bad person…”, none of which is true or simply cannot be known. The ego begs me not to write and share this article so that it can retain the false structures of its own identity. It seeks to prevent me from moving forward so it never has to change. So that it can hide in the safe space inside my mind where it never has to be challenged. When the ego remains in charge of your perceptions of reality, it is what makes you resistant to criticism or well-intentioned critiques. Some may feel deep shame or anger when facing the vulnerability of criticism because it challenges you to be different - it challenges your ego to be different. The ego wishes to avoid most situations that may put you in a vulnerable position and it is this resistance to vulnerability that will keep you from growing and evolving.
In Shamanic traditions, this voice is but an ally to our greater experience. It is used to guide us to physical safety but its limitations are recognized and acknowledged. When one learns how to work with the ego, rather than identifying with it completely or suppress it, its authority over you lessons and your Spirit is allowed to shine brighter. It is from direct awareness of the ego - the voice that isn’t you - that allows one to break free from identifying completely with it. It is within presence and moments of inner stillness that one can see this voice operating through the familiar thought patterns that outwardly makes up the personality complex you call “Me.” When you strip away the identification with this voice through awareness - whether that comes from meditation or a willingness to witness your thoughts without judgment or reaction - the truest, most authentic version of you emerges. This version of you, the authentic Spirit that is connected to all things, is able to more fully engage with their own light as well as the Helping Spirits around you.
As you continue to bring awareness to that voice, you begin to breakdown the identification with those thought structures. You are able to see more clearly that you are not the voice; rather, you are the Spirit within witnessing that voice. You are meant to work with it, not for or against it. It will be a life-long practice for most to continually bring their awareness to this voice as it operates. In fact, it’s quite likely that you’ve already had glimpses of this voice operating while reading this article. The fact that you are aware that the voice is operating even now, is the first step towards dissolving the ego.
As you continue to practice awareness, and your attachment to this voice fades, you will find that, while you may still feel vulnerable in certain situations, it no longer prevents you from living the kind of life you wish. You will find that your connection to the Helping Spirits deepen, your ceremonies will become richer and more vivid, and your desire to follow your heart will bring you from experience to experience, aiding in the expansion of your soul.