The meaning of being vulnerable

What is vulnerability?

Although vulnerability has military and security definitions, in terms of humans, it is best defined as a state which means a person needs additional care or support. In nearly every type of society, for example, children are deemed as being vulnerable and. Therefore, laws and social systems are specifically made to offer them additional protection. Furthermore, being vulnerable could come about because of other educational or emotional needs or from certain types of medical conditions. In terms of emotions, a vulnerable state is usually defined as one where you are susceptible to outside influence, something that might occur immediately after a relationship breakdown or a bereavement, for instance. Bear in mind that vulnerability is not just about an emotional state and that it means being potentially susceptible to physical intimidation, too.

 What does vulnerability feel like?

 This differs from person to person. In fact, it is not just individual responses to vulnerability that makes it different in each case, but what is causing the vulnerability, as well. That said, if you feel vulnerable, then you are likely to be more timid in your responses. Crucially, being vulnerable will often mean that you are susceptible to undue influence from others which may be benign or otherwise. In general, a vulnerable person may not be able to make decisions that are in their best interests, and this can be the case whether they realise it or not.

How is vulnerability determined?

In social theory, vulnerability comes about from so-called stressors which create shocks that subsequently make people feel vulnerable. These could be hazards, for example, or from things like social exclusion. Much research has been conducted into the effects of abuse and how it leaves people in a vulnerable state. Secondly, vulnerability is also a branch of cognitive psychology. Maladapted social responses - for example, as a result of attentional bias - may mean that an individual is more vulnerable than they otherwise would be.

How can vulnerability be reduced?

In order to feel less vulnerable, you should try to get through your current emotional state and start to feel more positive about yourself. Doing anything that improves your mental health, such as taking exercise or mixing in a positive group of supportive people, will help your confidence to grow and to feel less vulnerable. Social workers, teachers and healthcare professionals need to create care plans that mitigate the vulnerabilities of people in their charge, for example, vulnerable children that need additional safeguards to be put in place for extra protection.

Who might exploit vulnerability?

Some people exploit vulnerable people without realising it and even attempts to be helpful can be seen as exploitative in the fullness of time. That said, unscrupulous people try to exploit emotional vulnerabilities for their own gratification or to extend control over people. Sexual predators, bullies and people who are, themselves, vulnerable in some way tend to try and exploit vulnerabilities they see in others. Manipulative psychopaths are well-known for their attempts to influence vulnerable people.

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