In this series, I dig a little deeper into the meaning of psychological terms. This week’s term is vulnerability.
Wikipedia has a couple of different pages related to this topic, one on social and the other on cognitive vulnerability. It says that the word vulnerable derives from the Latin word vulnerare, which means to be wounded. A diathesis-stress model explains psychological disorders as resulting from a combination of predisposed factors that make people vulnerable and external stressful experiences; protective factors help to mitigate this risk.
Types of vulnerability
Cognitive vulnerability results from erroneous patterns of thinking, which makes people more vulnerable to certain psychological problems, such as mood disorders. Insecure attachment and stressful events contribute to this process.
Social vulnerability refers to the inability to handle the external stressors that one is faced with. Structural factors, including social inequalities and political factors, can play a role. Entire communities may be vulnerable in what’s known as collective vulnerability, “a state in which the integrity and social fabric of a community is or was threatened through traumatic events or repeated collective violence.”
I don’t think it would be unfair to call author Brené Brown the queen of vulnerability. She has written multiple books and given TED Talks, and is pretty all-around amazing. In her book Daring Greatly, she challenges the idea that being vulnerable represents weakness, and instead says that “vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage”.
She explains that being vulnerable involves emotional exposure, and while this may not feel comfortable it is at the core of all emotions. Daring to be vulnerable requires a sense of worthiness to combat shame and beliefs that we are not good enough.
I am highly selective about who I’m prepared to be vulnerable with. I’ve had some negative experiences, and these are hard to overcome. I suppose I’m vulnerable on my blog, but there’s really not much that could happen in terms of negative repercussions with that. I suppose all I can do is look for ways that I can be vulnerable, and at least try to push myself.
Is being vulnerable something that you struggle with?
The Psychology Corner page includes an index of the terms that have been covered in the What Is… (Insights into Psychology) series, as well as a collection of scientifically validated psychological tests.