Vulnerability and Trauma

Barry Boyce, editor-in-chief of Mindful Magazine, says that all humans are vulnerable beings, and that vulnerability is part of being alive and open to a range of experiences as we navigate through a world that is uncertain and frightening.

Although we are physically and psychologically vulnerable, we tend to fear our vulnerability because it threatens our sense of safety and security. We hold tightly on to control, as relaxing the grip brings up feelings of vulnerability that we may not be ready to face. Researcher Brene Brown defines vulnerability as, “Uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.”

Most people have experienced some form of trauma in their lifetime, which may be a one-time event such as a car accident, or a form of trauma that reoccurs for months or even years. For many people, trauma is deeply rooted in childhood neglect or abuse.

Unresolved trauma can lead to severe anxiety, depression, and substance abuse or addiction that may require drug and alcohol treatment or rehab. People who have experienced trauma may have problems with anger, depression or anxiety. They often have difficulty regulating their emotions, and they frequently self-medicate difficult emotions with drugs and alcohol.

Trauma and Suicide

Studies indicate that people who have experienced trauma are more likely to commit suicide. This is especially evident for veterans, for whom trauma and PTSD are truly matters of life and death. A 2012 Suicide Data Report conducted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs indicates that in the United States, 22 veterans commit suicide every day. The rate of suicide is greatest within the first three years after leaving military service.

Healing from Trauma Requires Vulnerability

Victims of trauma and PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome) are especially reluctant to embrace their vulnerability, which means giving up a certain amount of control and allowing oneself to feel difficult emotions. However, recovering from trauma requires learning (or re-learning) how to be vulnerable.

Boyce notes that people who have experienced severe trauma must understand and become familiar with their emotions, and then allow the anxiety to develop and rise to the surface where it can be addressed. Getting well often means setting small goals and accepting vulnerability gradually.

Trauma and Mindfulness Meditation

Developing new habits and practices, including mindfulness meditation, can interrupt negative thought patterns and help people get in touch with long-buried emotions. Research indicates that regular mindfulness practice can actually change the way the brain responds to trauma and stresses that have a negative impact on thinking and overall wellbeing.

Boyce also comments that when in the midst of trauma, we are invested in our own comfort and tend to forget the pain of others. However, we are all exposed to trauma. Understanding this commonality helps us develop compassion, feel less isolated and be more open to helping others. As a result, we connect and gain support from others while building healthy relationships and a health community.

Boyce also notes that human beings are extremely resilient with enormous capability to bounce back from painful experiences and tremendous adversity. However, healing requires time and patience, as recovering from trauma doesn’t happen instantly.

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