Fern Schumer Chapman
I took a strong stance in my first response to this blog. Now I’m going to back pedal a little. I want to address how trauma is alleviated. Part of what happens with PTSD is that an individual has a strong reaction to a situation. Though the individual may not realize it, he or she may be reacting to something that happened in the past rather than what is occurring in the present moment.
”Traumatized people find themselves re-enacting some aspect of the trauma scene in disguised form without realizing what they’re doing (e.g., putting themselves in dangerous situations this time to make the end come out differently (a version of the repetition compulsion.” says Judith Herman, who wrote what’s considered the bible on PTSD, a book called Trauma and Recovery. Often a PTSD experience is accompanied by a loss of feeling or numbness. With that numbness comes depression. You raise the issue of redirecting or reframing thinking and that is certainly a valuable strategy to cope with the depression.
But an individual who wants to manage PTSD must control stress levels and learn to recognize triggers before he or she reacts. That requires great awareness and vigilance. If the triggers surround one traumatic experience, it is easier to recognize PTSD. But if the trauma occurred early in life and is the result of prolonged abuse or neglect, the triggers are much more difficult to identify, which can be more disruptive.
A discussion on controlling stress levels and anxiety is a book in itself. There all kinds of ways of reducing stress, from breathing techniques to safe exposure to the original trauma. For example, the stress levels of Norwegian soldiers learning to parachute were examined over the course of months of training. At the time of their first jump, they were all terrified, and their stress hormones were elevated. But as they repeated the experience and mastered it, they were no longer terrified and their hormone secretion patterns changed.
One of the points that interested me in your first entry is that you identified that “people who in spite of traumatic historical and current experiences in their families are still working for peace and reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians, some of them jointly in bi-national groups.” This is clearly productive, and it is also another technique for addressing PTSD.
Herman claims that it’s important for those who suffer with PTSD to find a survivor mission. This may take the form of social action and a willingness to speak the unspeakable.
“I don’t think patients, survivors victimized people can recover in isolation,” Herman says. “They need other people and they need to take action in affiliation with others…Ultimately, if you’re talking about horrible abuses of power, you’re talking about atrocious things that one person does to another…You’re dealing with profound questions of human evil, human cruelty, human sadism. The abuse of power and authority.
“The antidote is the solidarity of resistance. Nobody can do that alone. It means testifying before the legislature. Or taking part in some kind of public education campaign or going to court or accompanying someone else to court, or demonstrating in favor of the assertion of victim’s rights, human rights.”
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