Learn how changes, or loss in particular, heighten our awareness and experience of feeling vulnerable.
- Though most people use the words fear and anxiety to describe what they are experiencing when they face change or loss, I actually believe both of those words are overused and misused. Fear involves facing danger in the moment right now. So if you are safe and you have resources available to you, like food or shelter, finances and friends, then using another word is better. Because when you use the word fear then you're actually activating that emotional state within you. And if you're not in real danger, please, consider using a different word. Anxiety is the next logical word choice. Now, psychologists describe anxiety as a diffuse sense of apprehension about some bad event or situation occurring in the future. Except if I were to ask 10 different people what anxiety meant to them, I would get 10 different answers. So using a word like anxiety is way too vague, and it doesn't really help you know what you are really feeling. And I've found most times that when a woman says she is anxious or a man says he is stressed or pressured, they are covering up feeling vulnerable. Now, vulnerability in my mind is the sense that I could be hurt, or you could be hurt. And using this word captures what you are feeling more accurately, and as a result it actually brings about a sense of calm. This type of vulnerability links very closely with the idea of neuroception that was first described by the scientist and professor, Dr. Stephen Porges. He defined neuroception as hard-wired and innate, a subconscious ability to detect safety, danger, and life threat. Now, neuroception suggests, and I also very firmly believe, that at some level we are all vulnerable, all of the time. So vulnerability's never not present, we just try to keep it out of our awareness, and I call this type of vulnerability non-conscious vulnerability. Conscious vulnerability, instead, is involved with the conscious risks that you choose to take, or the conscious actions you choose to take. Now, change and loss tend to heighten our sense of vulnerability. Yet at some point in our lives it's important to recognize that that change is the constant. And this type of non-conscious vulnerability is made so much more palpable as you experience the different kinds of life events or situations that change on a dime. In this case, think the coronavirus pandemic, lost work or wages, economic uncertainty, going back to work, or even the grocery store, or shifting to virtual from face-to-face work. Now, when something very real has occurred, such as the dangers associated with the virus, or the economic downturn, or even actual death, a few things happen. Not only do you experience the bodily sensations tied to feeling vulnerable, you also become more consciously aware that you feel vulnerable. Know that any real life events and encounters that alert us that we could be hurt intensify and magnify those same feelings of vulnerability. In particular, any time you witness or experience sudden or unexpected or tragic or traumatic events, no matter whether you are exposed to them in real life, or you're just witnessing them on a screen, your awareness of your own vulnerability becomes heightened. And the way to handle feeling vulnerable, whether it is non-conscious or conscious vulnerability that we're talking about, is to know that you can experience and move through the eight unpleasant feelings.
- Understanding difficult feelings
- Defining grief
- Dealing with loss and change
- Supporting grieving colleagues
- Returning to work