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Addendum A: Trauma and Natural Disasters – Self-Forgiveness and Self-Blame
To begin this course, let us go over some basic, but important, information about what trauma is.
What is Trauma?
- Trauma makes you realize that you could have died.
- Trauma makes you feel vulnerable, defenseless, and paralyzed.
- Trauma is abrupt and overpowering. You don’t own it, it owns you.
- Trauma occurs at any time you experience extreme fear, no matter how long.
- Trauma causes you to not think clearly.
- Trauma has a life-threatening and sudden quality that makes it more than just stress.
- Trauma shocks the whole system which creates a state of emergency.
- Trauma is an event with a predictable aftermath.
A traumatic memory is like an engraving on the brain. It is a clear, distinct, vivid image that is like a photograph rather than a movie because it stands on its own.
When it comes to trauma, most clients find it hard to forgive themselves and put the blame on themselves for their traumatic experience. There are many reasons that your client could not prevent his or her trauma from happening. While this is common sense, it is an important idea to review. Here is just a brief list of reasons:
- they were not old enough or physically capable enough or they were outnumbered
- they did not have the help they needed at the time
- someone other than your client made a mistake
- they were a part of an unpreventable act of nature (this is crucial for clients that are dealing with natural disaster trauma)
- no warnings or alerts were given to them (another important one for natural disaster trauma clients)
- they did not have the necessary legal rights
- they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time
- they were lied to, threatened, or coerced
- they were not given correct or sufficient information or training
- they dissociated or froze
Although this is all probably review, I feel it is important to review this information before we go into specific techniques for trauma clients. Within this course, we will discuss various techniques that you can use with your clients that are suffering from trauma, specifically because they were is a natural disaster.
As you will see, the experiences of Jackie and Tom definitely fit in with the definition of trauma. Jackie, age 30, was in a hurricane. During the hurricane, she was in the hospital getting ready to give birth to her son. Thankfully, the hospital Jackie was at was spared but her home was not. Jackie, her husband, and her newborn had no home when they left the hospital. When she came in to see me, she was overwhelmed by taking care of a newborn while living in temporary housing. She was upset about her thoughts of giving up her baby and giving him to a family that was better off than she and her husband were. She felt terrible and could not forgive herself for her thoughts.
Tom, age 45, was in an earthquake. At the time, Tom and his family were at their friends house which was earthquake proof so Tom and his family suffered minimal physical damage. Tom and his wife, in the morning, left for home on foot. The trip home, which usually took 30 minutes, ended up taking 2 and a half hours. Tom and his wife walked among the ruins and they were not sure if they were going the right way since no landmarks remained. Tom explained to me at our first meeting, "everything was flattened, damaged, or just plain gone". Tom was able to describe all the details of the earthquake damage which perhaps made it difficult for him to believe what happened. He explained, "all of the houses looked as if they were out of place, as if they had been moved around. Pieces of the houses were missing and all the trees were knocked down. When my wife and I reached our home, she asked how much farther we had to walk. I was stunned that she couldn’t even recognize our home". Throughout the course, we will look at the case studies of Jackie and Tom to see these natural disaster trauma techniques in action.
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