Vulnerability. For children it goes without saying. They are vulnerable simply by being young and innocent. But what makes an adult vulnerable?
Recently, I did something out of my comfort zone. I shared the name of my book with a group of close friends and family on-line. I also “came out” and said what had happened to me. That made me feel very vulnerable because I have reached the point where I can talk about what happened and not feel shame. That took a long time. I also realize that what happened was abuse. That too took a long time.
Being involved with SNAP has taught me words like “Grooming” and “Gaslighting” and “Future Promising” and “Narcissistic Rage” and “Cognitive Dissonance”.
Coming out to people who know me but who have not been through the experience is scary. Because I know that someone is going to inevitably ask, “Why didn’t you just leave?” or “Why didn’t you just go to Human Resources?” or “How could you not see what was going on?” or even “What the Hell is wrong with you?”
So. it’s scary. But you know something, I think I’m okay with that. That vulnerability. Because many of my friends and family live in my area. And they will know that what happened, happened right here….to someone they know. By a priest who may be saying mass next week at their church. And though it may never happen to them, it may make them think. May make someone more aware of what is going on. And maybe it could reach someone who needs to hear the message.
We are all vulnerable to physical harm because we are in physical bodies. And we all need other people to a certain degree, which makes us vulnerable to be scammed or used or violated by others who lack empathy, or someone whose desperate need for drugs or money or perhaps emotional weakness may influence their actions.
Taking risks is necessary in life, but don’t hand out trust too easily. Be careful exchanging information with someone you just met. Beware of the charmer, the one who compliments or who wants to get close to you too quickly.
There are times in our life when we can be more vulnerable, and our guard can be let down. Obviously with clergy and at church. But also, in group settings and even in support groups where we are encouraged to share and be open. And of course, if you are alone, be careful to always lock your doors at home and in your car right away and trust your gut feelings if someone approaches you asking for help….never follow someone to their car or someplace where you will be alone with them.
Emotionally, abusers can sense when someone is vulnerable. Think for a moment of a time when you felt overwhelmed. Perhaps you had an abusive spouse, or you were trying to raise and support children on your own, or you may have been taking care of someone who was sick. Maybe you were sick, or your child was sick. Perhaps you have suffered an unbearable loss. Maybe you feel isolated or very lonely. Life can throw a lot at people, and increased stress can lead to depression. Things can seem hopeless, and the world can seem to lack any happiness or hope.
I’ve been there. We probably all have. It feels to me like the world lacks color and joy. You can feel that you’ve lost yourself and that you are no longer living but just surviving. You are emotionally vulnerable.
Having a person listen to you, seem to understand and care about you, take an interest in you, compliment you, find you attractive, or offer help when you need it, can feel like lifesaving rain to a parched flower. The sun comes out when they are around. Endorphins that have lain dormant forever start to wake up again and the world is awash with color. In a sense, you can feel a sense of addiction to that person if you have been in a state of emotional depletion.
You can also fall into a Stockholm Syndrome type of thing if this person is in power over you in some way, or controls important aspects of your life.
I was thinking about the struggle we often face between what we want or what we know is right or not right. The fight between the heart and the brain. Not when you are already in the middle of something and you can’t see the forest for the trees, but when you are functioning in life with other people.
It can sometimes feel like the head is the adult and the heart is the child that holds all of the hurt and the needs and the memories. They argue back and forth like a parent trying to protect their child from harm. Sometimes the head (the parent or experience and wisdom) can rule the heart. At other times, the heart storms out and slams the door behind it like a petulant teenager who has to do things their way, and the head just throws up their hands and says….”You know better but there’s nothing I can do. You’ll just have to learn the hard way.”
And that is, I imagine, how we normally process emotions. That does not take into account emotional vulnerability, when the brain and the body are confused and tired and misfiring.
I think the takeaway here is to be careful if something or someone seems too good to be true. And forgive yourself if you have fallen victim to someone who has taken advantage of you when you were at a low point in your life and needed someone.
Another piece of food for thought…thoughts of revenge can be common when you have been duped or abused. Remember that Narcissistic abusers can often be dangerous people. Directly trying to confront them can backfire and make situations worse. Advice for dealing with abusers is basically no contact.
On another note, I have been asked to share an attachment which I will include at the bottom of this blog.
Oh, also, getting back to my book, the priests are aware that I wrote this. Someone has bought the book, it appears, for the main reason to give it an anonymous one-star rating, and then trying to resell it. So, beware of buying used books from survivors who have written their stories. You don’t know who is selling it.