A primary relation between the human being and the environment is that of vulnerability. Vulnerability and its sequelae provide a major set of concepts for explaining human behaviour in all its form. To say that a human is vulnerable is to say that her needs can be frustated and interfered with, the result being the experience of distress and its associated behaviors. I am going to discuss in more detail the kinds of emotional distress and associated behaviors that result when needs, especially personal needs, are frustrated and interfered with.
When understanding needs are frustrated through a lack of information or a set of concepts that could make the human situation in particular, or human condition in general, intelligible and manageable, then the resultant distress is experienced as anxiety and in its more intense phases, fear. If not suppressed, such fear can appear in the body as cold perspiration and involuntary trembling. In humans, severe physical threat, where there is a possibility of death, also involves psychological threat, since physical death is an assault of the unknown consciousness. Death is enormously painful, striking a blow to the very core of our being and leaving us pained for months and years to come. It steals a sense of naivete that we use to shield our own vulnerabilty. Stephen King in his essay "Leaf-Peepers deals with human vulnerability of getting old by trying to accept and learn to appreciate the changes. Both Dylan Thomas in his poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night and Emily Dickinson in her poem "I heard a fly buzz when I died vividly describe the fact that we are vulnerable to the fear of our own death as well as the death of people whom we love. While Dickinson may face death with matter-of-fact dignity, Thomas may fight death with every ounce of will and energy they can muster. Thomas repeats, "Rage, rage against the dying of the light. He obviously feels that ever