04 Oct We are All Vulnerable
Vulnerability, vulnerable people, vulnerable communities- it’s part of our vocabulary here at Access Institute. But what do we mean when we say that our services support the most vulnerable in our community? It’s a broad statement, but its meaning becomes utterly specific within the life story of the individual or family one has in mind.
A 10-year-old boy whose father is in prison. A 67-year-old cancer survivor living on social security and sharing a 450 sq/ft studio apartment with his friend. A single mother working two jobs whose five-year-old daughter was recently diagnosed with autism. A 22-year-old college student just out of the hospital following a psychotic breakdown. A school teacher on leave from her work due to panic attacks and social anxiety. An artist struggling with depression and substance abuse.
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Vulnerability comes in many forms and can follow economic stress, a personal medical crisis or results from the demands of caring for a loved one. Anyone who is working to heal from mental illness and needs the support of others knows vulnerability, just the same as someone facing a difficult life transition such as divorce, immigration or a major career change knows it. Loss means vulnerability and comes in so many forms. Aging, illness, the death of a loved one, any kind of forced separation or isolation. And in an age where 62% of Americans have no emergency savings financial vulnerability can strike at any moment.
As human beings, we are all vulnerable. Invulnerable beings only exist in our fantasies. There are no superheroes. Accordingly, the opposite of vulnerability isn’t invulnerability, but resilience – the psychological capacity to respond and adapt to stress and adversity. And resilience is not an attribute that one inherits like sex or eye color, but a complex of psychological processes that one develops over time. There, in fact, is the good news (and where Access Institute comes in), with the right kind of support and focused work, anyone can become more resilient.
Anyone who has experienced the psychotherapy process can tell you that it builds resilience through the development of social, emotional and self-reflective capacities. We might say that at Access Institute, we respond to the unlimited variety of human vulnerability not to cure it, but to build resilience around it, helping people more flexibly navigate their way through general stress and specific crises so they can learn new ways of coping with life’s challenges.
Bart Magee, Ph.D.
Founder and Executive Director