Paul T. P. Wong, Ph.D., C.Psych
The courage to face our suffering is the first step towards turning away from toxic positivity and addiction towards healthy positivity. Awareness of our vulnerability is the first step towards positive transformation. These two counterintuitive ideas are the main inspirations for the new science of existential positive psychology (PP 2.0; Wong, 2021).
As human beings, no one is immune from the uncomfortable feelings of vulnerability. Somehow, we all have experienced moments of fear or even terror that we may be rejected, proven wrong, or replaced by others. Such feelings of inadequacy or inferiority may come from unfavourable social conditions, the critical voices of parents, or past trauma. They may even stem from our realistic assessment of our own physical or mental limitations in facing the enormous challenges of living through a crisis.
In the era of COVID-19 and during prolonged lockdown, more and more people become painfully aware of the emptiness and loneliness of their existence without the parties, pubs, sports, and entertainments. In fact, most of my clients during the pandemic want to know how they can find some meaning and purpose so that can fill their inner void.
One of my clients actually confessed: “So far, all I have done was to do well in school, get a good job, and married the woman I loved. I have succeeded beyond my expectations, but I still feel insecure and unhappy and I feel that there is something missing in my life.” This awareness brought him to me and to a journey of personal transformation.
In short, whatever the cause, they are haunted by the nagging feeling of the inadequacy and meaninglessness of their life, and they are earnest in their search for meaning and fulfillment.
According to PP 2.0, such deeply rooted feelings of vulnerability may be part of our DNA and may play an important part in our survival and flourishing. Last year, I explained in some detail this optimistic view in Let your vulnerability be your strength (Wong, 2019).
More recently, I wrote: “The silver lining is that in spite of all the gloomy predictions about the mental health crisis and economic fallout, something beautiful and good could emerge out of the devastation.” (Wong, 2020). Paradoxically, feelings of vulnerability and emptiness may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
Now I am proposing a Vulnerability Awareness Scale (VAS) as part of my vision to develop the new science of transforming suffering into resilience and flourishing. My hypothesis is that the VAS is a better predictor of resilience, mental health, and mature happiness than traditional positive variables, such as signature character strengths (VIA) and high social-economic-status.
I invite you to complete the VAS as honestly as you can as part of the process to develop a valid and reliable psychological measure.
Wong, P. T. P. (2019). Let your vulnerability be your strength [President’s Column]. Positive Living Newsletter. http://www.drpaulwong.com/let-your-vulnerability-be-your-strength/
Wong, P. T. P. (2020). 7 Reasons Why the New Normal May Be Good for You [President’s Column]. Positive Living Newsletter. http://www.drpaulwong.com/7-reasons-why-the-new-normal-may-be-good-for-you/
Wong, P. T. P. (2021). Existential Positive Psychology (PP 2.0) and global wellbeing: Why it is Necessary During the Age of COVID-19. IJEPP, 10(1), 1-16.