Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Thursday's Therapy - How Do We Best Cope with Severe Loss and Trauma? (Part Five) ~With Dr. Mary Baures

Thursday's Therapy 
How Do We Best Cope 
Severe Loss and Trauma?
(Part Five) 

~With Dr. Mary Baures


By Dr. Mary Baures, Co-Producer and Author of Undaunted Spirits

Continued from last Thursday, the following is the final of the ten Coping Behaviors and Attitudes that Dr. Baures says Help Us Come Back from Profound Loss:

10.  Do not Generalize

People who get stuck in the grieving process often generalize the trauma to all of life. Because one person or group brutalized them, they seem to fear that many or most people are cruel and evil. The trauma, therefore, needs to be placed in a perspective which does not include the whole world.

Survivors need to realize that there is not only suffering, loss and evil, but also joy, support and loving.

When I compare the successful trauma survivors in my research to clients I used to see in the emergency room after suicide attempts, the ability to unite opposites emerges as an important prerequisite of survival from trauma. Those whom I met in the ER seemed to take one tragedy and generalize it to all of life. If someone had abused them, they felt that no-one was safe and that neglect, violence, sadism, danger and evil characterized all the world. These negative attitudes dampened all hope of being able to create a nurturing or productive future. In a present that may have been marked by constant flashbacks of past abuse, death seems preferable to the life they were living.

Psychiatrist Robert Lifton (1976), who studied survivors of Hiroshima and veterans of the Vietnam war, says that
"In a survivor's struggle between life and death, it is necessary to assemble those images and feelings that propel one toward the future."

Many of the survivors he interviewed had been to a "land of death," and returned with possibly grim, but also revitalizing truth which became a demand on the rest of us.

Lifton argues that the most poignant and difficult struggle in recovery is to reinstate a larger human connectedness. 

As survivors assimilate knowledge of an annihilating force into altered mental structures, they need to try and maintain harmony with the elements of life over time and space.

As we saw before, recovery entails both looking toward the future and an assertion of the continuity of life. 

The resilient individuals in this film accept the dark side of life without being defeated by it.

The catastrophes in their lives taught them that opposites do not root each other out. They found that struggling to accept losses involves many negative emotions, but that not all the emotions in a crisis are negative.

The Chinese character for crisis consists of two equal symbols: one meaning danger, the other opportunity.  

The survivors in this film came back from extreme hardship to take the opportunities that were opened by the very danger which threatened their lives.

Thank you to Dr. Mary Baures for her very enlightening article!


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