Once again a nation, Japan and its people, face devastation, loss and terrifying uncertainty in the aftermath of disaster.
Enabled by ever-expanding technology, people across miles, cultures, religions, races and economies witness the unfolding of unspeakable events. While disaster of this proportion calls forth a universal sense of horror and concern, there are differences in the way we all react.
What Accounts For These Differences?
While Traumatologists indicate that the characteristics of an event – be it man-made or natural disaster, time-limited or prolonged, life threatening or catastrophic- mediate the impact of a traumatic event on people, they hold that the most crucial factor in determining a person’s response is the meaning of the event for that person.
The Subjective Meaning of an Event
Trauma researcher, Rachel Yehuda, suggests it is the subjective interpretation of an event that largely determines whether that event is traumatic to a person. What a person thinks about the event–including why it happened and what could have been done differently–affects the response to trauma. If a person believes it is a man-made attempt to harm them, they will have a different reaction than if they perceive the event as an unavoidable accident. If they believe an earthquake is punishment from God as opposed to a devastating natural occurrence – their reaction will be quite different.
The subjective meaning of an event is determined by a number of parameters:
Proximity plays a part in the meaning of the event for a person and increases the likelihood of a person’s traumatic stress response.
One common factor that mediates a person’s experience of a traumatic event is the experience of connection with others. From the acute to the long term stages of a natural disaster or terrorist attack, in the case of children or Military Special Forces, people find safety and a place to emotionally recover in the company of others.
Trauma specialists tell us that in the face of natural disaster, or traumatic loss, the family is the first-line resource for helping children make sense of what is happening, moderate exposure to images of trauma and feel safety in connection with those who love and care for them. The child who feels held feels less traumatized.
Ørner and Schnyder studying early intervention after trauma across cultures recommend that after satisfaction of primary needs of safety, shelter and nourishment – what is most important in reducing the impact of trauma is helping survivors draw upon and connect with natural networks of family and friends- more important than any professional intervention.
When asked about Trauma and Human Existence and how we find any type of safety given the existential terror of war, natural disaster and catastrophe, Robert Stolorow recommends that we accept that we are brothers in darkness – that across cultures we must reach to find a relational home for terror.
Ørner & Schnyder (2003) Reconstructing Early Intervention after Trauma: Innovations in the Care of Survivors. UK: Oxford University Press.
Photo by Nasa Goddard, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.
This post currently has
You can read the comments or leave your own thoughts.
From Psych Central's World of Psychology:
Best of Our Blogs: March 18, 2011 | World of Psychology (March 18, 2011)
Best of Our Blogs: March 18, 2011 | (March 23, 2011)
Last reviewed: 14 Mar 2012