Invulnerability: “It won’t happen to me!”

Do you have a sense of vulnerability or invulnerability? To be vulnerable is to feel open and defenseless. It may be a fear that someone is out to get you, circumstances are against you, or life in general is against you. Some people only feel vulnerable in certain situations, while others feel vulnerable all the time. On the flip side, Invulnerability means “not vulnerable.” Those who believe they are invulnerable don’t think anything can hurt them. They can do anything, go anywhere, and break all the rules. Why? Because they firmly believe, “It won’t happen to me.” This attitude can be good or bad…

Definitions of Invulnerability

Invulnerability has two definitions, with the first one logically leading to the second.

  1. Incapable of being wounded, hurt, or damaged.
  2. The false belief that one is somehow safeguarded from the dangers and misfortunes that afflict other people. 

Invulnerability by Choice: Risk and Reward

Sometimes, a sense of invulnerability draws the line between staying where you are, and engaging a higher level where there are many unknowns. In the counter culture novel, “From Woodstock To Eternity,” Dustin Morgan has to deal with his own version of invulnerability. When he ponders his first run to Texas, he thinks,

The conclusion is inevitable. He’ll always wonder what would have happened if he doesn’t. The next level is always a blind leap. You’ll never know until you try. The question is, do you have the guts to try, or is caution going to triumph over glory?

Caution over glory, or glory over caution, that is the question. In order to justify the risk, we have to accept a measure of invulnerability, that is, it won’t happen to me. The early pioneers had to deal with this issue, and some never made it… however, many did, and they reaped the rewards. No Guts, No Glory

Forced Invulnerability: Combat Under Command

We recently commemorated the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944. How many of those soldiers thought they were invulnerable? What if they felt extremely vulnerable and wanted to go back… could they? No. They were under orders to attack, and they had no choice. Although, later in life many reflected on how they felt as young soldiers and said, “I thought I could do anything. I felt invincible, like it would never happen to me.” We all know the outcome. When the need is drastic, the risks are great, and those who meet the call are the ones who make it happen.

Hazardous Invulnerability

In aviation, invulnerability is listed as one of the “5 Bad Attitudes” that contribute to airplane crashes. Many people believe that accidents happen to others, but never to them. They know accidents can happen, and they know that anyone can be affected however they never really feel or believe that they will be personally involved. Pilots who think this way are more likely to take chances and increase risk. Aviation Instructors Handbook 8-17.

For pilots, this could mean neglecting flight planning, refusal to check all the variables for that flight, and maybe even ignoring weather reports. They may try to fly outside the limits of what the plane can do, such as putting it into a roll when it is not made for such maneuvers. One that gets a lot of pilots is called “scud running,” where a pilot will try to circumvent Instrument conditions by flying under and around clouds just by reference to ground features. No bueno.

Practical Invulnerability

This aspect of Invulnerability also applies to everyday living. While there are times when we need to go “into the unknown,” so to speak, most of the time we need to count the cost. Those who make decisions thinking it won’t happen to them reject basic precautions. They don’t use seat belts, they drive drunk or get themselves into situations they have no business being in. This is not to live in a state of fear. rather, to be fearlessly reasonable. Like Dustin Morgan said,

People spend their whole lives trying to keep bad stuff from happening.  They starve themselves and jog five miles a day, trying to stay ‘healthy’, then fall down dead from a heart attack.  They turn down opportunities to see the world because they’re afraid of flying, then get run over by a Mack truck while they’re looking the other way.  Maybe I’m stupid or careless, but I just refuse to let fear keep me from experiencing all that life has to offer.”