Table of contents:
- Every day people are dying in the world: wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, accidents occur. This is always unexpected, takes by surprise and destroys a seemingly stable life. In the news bulletins, there are constant reports of victims. How does our psyche adapt to tragic events?
Video: When Fear Interferes With Life - Society
Every day people are dying in the world: wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, accidents occur. This is always unexpected, takes by surprise and destroys a seemingly stable life. In the news bulletins, there are constant reports of victims. How does our psyche adapt to tragic events?
Larisa PYZHYANOVA - candidate of psychological sciences, practical psychologist, specialist in the field of extreme psychology. For more than 10 years she worked at the Emergency Psychological Aid Center of the Russian Emergencies Ministry. In 2007 she became the head of the "Hot Line" department, in 2014 - the deputy director of the center. As a psychologist, she has participated in over 45 emergency situations. Author of over 20 scientific and popular scientific articles and publications.
Emergency situations are covered in detail in the media. Even people who were not participants in the events feel anxiety for themselves and their loved ones.
This is a matter of professional ethics as a journalist. How to convey information so that it is complete, objective, impartial and does not become an emotional weapon against people on the other side of the screen?
Each person can perceive the same information in different ways: someone is indifferent, someone with a keen interest, and someone is so deep, as if he himself became a participant in the events. Under the influence of his personal characteristics - high empathy, emotional lability, anxiety, or under the influence of past traumatic experience, a person begins to experience and personally become involved in a situation in which he is not really located, but simply saw a report from the scene. This is called secondary trauma. Such people can also be considered victims, although they were not at the scene of the tragedy.
What protection mechanisms are triggered at this moment?
When faced with difficult stressful situations, we respond in two ways: psychological defenses and building coping strategies. Defense mechanisms are unconscious mental processes aimed at minimizing negative experiences. They can manifest themselves as identification (identification with another person or people), denial or distortion of reality (refusal of awareness of emotionally difficult information), defensive fantasizing, dissociation (separating oneself from one's negative experiences - “this is not happening to me”), regression (return to childish forms of behavior). Both “primitive idealization” (the perception of another person as ideal and omnipotent) and “omnipotent control” (the perception of oneself as the cause of everything that happens in the world) can arise.
Coping strategies are self-help strategies. They help us adapt to difficult situations, reduce their impact on the psyche and maintain peace of mind. For example, we can include self-control or take responsibility, realize our role in solving a problem.
Coping strategies are often socially oriented, so we look for support in society, we turn to others for help. This is associated with massive reactions that appear after tragedies. Many bring flowers to the place of death or go to rallies in memory of the victims, collect money to support the victims.
How often do people with secondary trauma use the hotline?
In the first hours after the tragedy, about 90 percent of the callers are relatives of the victims or people who are worried about the fate of their relatives and friends, because for some reason they cannot contact them directly. By the end of the first day, not indifferent citizens join them.
Some express words of support, ask how you can help. Others are indignant, accuse, indignant - this is their defensive reaction, manifested in the form of aggression. Still others simply ask how to live in this unstable world, say that they are afraid for themselves, for their loved ones.
All of these messages are normal responses to stress. If we go through a situation, extracting some personal experience from it, then it is built into our life and raises us to a higher adaptation level.
Sometimes the opposite happens: we constantly read the news that somewhere people died or suffered, but we remain indifferent. This is normal?
When you receive such information every day, it begins to be perceived as something commonplace. But it is abnormal to become indifferent to pain and grief, to stop seeing real people, their broken lives and inverted fates behind the statistics.
And the eyewitnesses on the scene, who are filming everything on camera, although they could help? How can this be explained?
I want to believe that this is the very same psychological defense: you hide behind the camera and look at everything through the lens, as if watching a movie - this behavior can be considered a denial of reality, dissociation, regression. But this is an ineffective coping behavior. It's another matter when, for example, you went to first aid courses and you know how to help yourself and those around you in such situations.
How does our psyche adapt to the fact that emergencies are constantly happening around us?
Realizing all the risks, we continue to live with the hope that “this will definitely not happen to me specifically,” all terrible things happen somewhere and with someone. This is the illusion of our own immortality - one of those basic illusions that help us live, love, create families, plan, that is, feel the ground under our feet. It seems like you know that everyone dies and you will die someday, but this is still so long. And when an emergency happens nearby and suddenly, especially with those people with whom he was personally acquainted, or it happens before your eyes, then reality cruelly invades the world we have built. Sooner or later, each person is faced with the realization of his mortality, with the fact that this can happen at any moment and in the most unexpected way.
Another basic illusion is the illusion of justice in the world. It seems that we are not doing anything bad, which means that nothing terrible can happen. The moment comes when we finally realize that we cannot influence the most important thing - our own birth and our own death. Moreover, it is also impossible to hide and protect the most dear and beloved people from all worries and tragedies.
This has always been the case for as long as humanity has existed. For our loved ones, for ourselves, we do everything in our power. But we cannot change what is beyond our capabilities. We can only accept and learn to live with it.
Our plastic psyche adapts to almost any situation, and no matter what happens, after a certain time we return to normal life. For example, in the first days after the explosions in the metro, the number of people wishing to use this type of transport decreases sharply, but then everything returns to its usual framework. If adaptation did not occur, people would simply cease to exist, since they would not be able to create families, give birth to children, or strive for something. Basic illusions, psychological defenses, and coping strategies perform the protective function here.
Why does a man need fear?
Fear helps to avoid danger. But when he begins to own and manage, changes his usual way of life - this is already a problem. The further, the worse the situation - a person begins to derive for himself a secondary benefit from the current situation.
It sounds paradoxical, but he finds bonuses in his position. For example, he does not need to study, earn money, relatives try to be around more often, take care of, do not demand anything. In this situation, your own volitional decision, awareness of the problem and the desire to return to an active life are important. Only then will the help of a specialist be truly effective.
How do you tell your loved one that they need help?
Do not start with the words "you have obvious problems, you urgently need to see a psychologist, you are strange." If we say so, then there will be one reaction - defensive aggression, withdrawal. The victim will begin to defend their self, as they perceive this form of treatment not as caring, but rather as accusation and attacks.
Start a conversation with a story about yourself, about your feelings, about what exactly you are experiencing, seeing what is happening with your loved one.
This is the universal "I-message". For example, “I am worried about you, worried that you are sleeping anxiously, that you have begun to rarely leave the house, it became difficult for me to communicate with you, I want to support you, help you, but I don’t know how; what can I do for you to make you feel better? " Such words are listened to because they truly express concern and concern.