Time for something different, and an actual tool to use with all of the latest talk around our own vulnerability. I perused the internet and didn’t find a very exciting scale already out there, so I decided we can make our own damn scale.
The Therapy is Dandy Vulnerability Scale.
It’s easy to use, and this post will tell you all about it.
The first key feature of this scale is there is no such thing as a point on the scale where you feel no sense of vulnerability. Vulnerability is inevitable. Life is a constant state of vulnerability. Most of us may not have to struggle for food, water or shelter on a daily basis, or avoid running into bears of snakes, but we are here to survive. And that survival is not guaranteed. Right?
There are only 5 stages on this scale. The higher the level of vulnerability, the more difficult it will be for us to maintain calm mindfulness and rational problem solving behaviors. Said another way, the higher on the vulnerability scale we go, the more emotionally reactive we can become. Unless we practice our mindfulness, our awareness, and our deep, calm, and soothing breaths. Yet another way of saying it is, the more vulnerable we feel, the more likely our reptilian brain will respond with fight/flight/flee responses UNLESS we develop the expectation of this occurring and then practice our mindfulness skills thanks to our great big prefrontal cortex.
One of the things I find annoying about scales (other than this one) and anything that tries to be helpful by being reductive is that they all tends to generalize too much for the sake of the scale.
People. You. Me. Your mom, are going to experience vulnerability differently. So, my standard level of vulnerability (SLV for short) is going to look very different than yours, or your mothers, or Donald Trumps. That is perhaps why no good scale exists. And it may be why this scale is a bad idea to attempt. But I am going to try it.
To address this issue, I have included some examples. These examples will not be in exactly the same place for everyone. Remember, as a certain Prisoner one declared: you are not a number, you are a person. An individual. If your SLV is triggered by an event your partner would put on level 1 but you react to it as a level 3, then clearly this is really important information for you and your partner to know.
Every example given on the scale is possibly a level 1, 2, 3, and 4 for some of us. I am including them in the order provided to give a sense of the continuum of vulnerability that any of these events may cause someone. For someone with PTSD from past military service for example, fireworks may or may not be a level 2 event. The same adjustment would apply for an experienced ER nurse and her reaction to seeing blood at work, as opposed to a fresh out of graduate school kindergarten teacher seeing blood at work. Your experiences will affect your SLV accordingly. But I have put something down as a starting point for us to consider. Maybe the best thing for you to do after reading this post is come up with your own examples for each level that accurately represent your vulnerability.
If you believe in your own invulnerability, or that such a thing truly exists, I direct you to your local bookstore’s fantasy/sci-fi/comics section(s). And happy reading. I mean it. Read some Neil Gaiman, it might teach you something about the universality of vulnerability.
Level 1 Baseline Vulnerability.
Like how it feels to be reading this blog. Or for me to be writing this blog. Or being on a regular airplane flight with negligible turbulence. No big whoop. Unless it is, if simply reading this blog is elevating your sensitivity to being vulnerable, then try level 2.
Level 2 Mild Vulnerability.
Like a first date, a job interview that you feel prepared and confident about, driving in regular but busy traffic, a single woman walking down a busy urban street with at least one friend. You being a client at your counseling session talking about easy topics. Waiting in line at an airport through regular security. Unless it is not that simply. If not, then you need to look at level 3.
Level 3 Heightened Vulnerability.
Like your wedding day and/or the day you receive divorce papers, a job interview for your dream job when you have a hangover, driving in bumper to bumper traffic without air conditioning, a single woman walking down a busy urban street, alone, while being catcalled by men who should know better. You at your counseling session in the middle of an empty chair exercise. Being asked out of the airport security line into one of those examination rooms. Being on an airplane with a lot of turbulence.
Level 4 Intense Vulnerability.
A car accident or a near miss of a serious car accident. A physical fight. An act of violence. A panic attack. Witnessing any of these things happening in front of you to someone else.
Level 5 Flight/Flight/Flee. It doesn’t get any higher than this.
So now that the basic framework is done for the scale, how about you come up with examples that illustrate each level of appropriate anxiety for yourself? Next time we can work on it a little more, I think. (Sorry Donald T, I don’t really want to talk about you.)
Until next time, friends.