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Grief and Guilt in PTSD
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further explain PTSD resulting from terrorism and other traumas, let us examine
grief, realistic guilt, and briefly look at the Stockholm Syndrome.
Grief and mourning experiences may be very much involved in terrorist victimization.
We know that victims of terrorism can be badly beaten or injured, possibly maimed,
and suffer the rage I have previously described. This rage may be associated with
being knocked down in a dominance hierarchy. By this I mean rage at being made
to feel suddenly less powerful. However, as you know, direct or indirect victims
can also grieve, and grieve deeply, for the loss of an image of themselves - whether
that image was as potent, as in control, or as whole.
This grieving may be accompanied by the depressed feelings that accompany other grief reactions and may also precipitate
depressive illnesses in predisposed clients. You may have noticed an exacerbation
of symptoms in your Depressive Disordered clients.
the September 11 terrorist attacks, our entire nation was knocked down in a dominance
hierarchy and feeling suddenly less powerful. We had to grieve the loss of our
image as a nation as being so potent and in control that terrorism could not happen
here. This grieving was accompanied by a national feeling of deep depression,
as reported by numerous media coverage programs.
In terrorist incidents, realistic guilt is most likely to become
a problem when some hostages have been released before others or when persons
with military or law-enforcement backgrounds have not resisted the hostage-takers
Of course, if the victim of terrorism could have what he
or she wanted, they would want not to have been a victim of terrorism. This fantasy is all the more poignant in the case of terrorism since there has hardly ever
been any real human relationship between the terrorist and his victim before the
act that brought them together. In the case of the Twin Towers, victims and their
loved ones feel, If only they had been in a different building that day!
But this wish, of course, cannot be fulfilled other than in fantasy, and it remains
to be determined how helpful such fantasies are to victims.
As you know, victims
need to adapt to the event that has occurred as best they can, and the desire
of family, friends, and professionals is to help them. So realistic guilt is involved,
because the victim had placed himself or herself in harm's way, a fate they felt
they could have avoided.
on the Victims of Terrorism
As you know from undergraduate school, the
Stockholm Syndrome has often only been viewed as simply identifying with the terrorist,
but that concept does not adequately explain hostage behavior. It seems more useful
to see how the hostages attempts to relate to those who have first captured
and terrified them, and then used them as instruments to obtain their objectives
from a third party, have affected their behavior. This is explored in detail in
the Course Content Manual that accompanies this Audio Tape.
summary, the suffering of the victim is the leverage used for negotiations with
a third party. Hostages, in their psychologically-traumatized state, never view
negotiations for their release as benevolent, because they would immediately give
anything for their release. The hostage interprets and experiences any negotiations
as endangering them. They, therefore, perceive negotiations, especially extended
ones, as evidence of indifference, hostility, and rejection, so that the very
people who are negotiating for their release seem to be unloving and life-threatening. This reinforces the pathological transference already developing by prolonged
exposure to the terrorist.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Finlay, L. D. (2015). Evidence-based trauma treatment: Problems with a cognitive reappraisal of guilt. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 35(4), 220–229.
Hasselle, A. J., Howell, K. H., Bottomley, J., Sheddan, H. C., Capers, J. M., & Miller-Graff, L. E. (2020). Barriers to intervention engagement among women experiencing intimate partner violence proximal to pregnancy. Psychology of Violence, 10(3), 290–299.
Himmerich, S. J., Ellis, R. A., & Orcutt, H. K. (2020). Application of PTSD alcohol expectancy symptom clusters to the four-dimensional model of PTSD: Support from moderations of the association between symptoms of posttraumatic stress and alcohol use. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12(4), 347–355.
Seirmarco, G., Neria, Y., Insel, B., Kiper, D., Doruk, A., Gross, R., & Litz, B. (2012). Religiosity and mental health: Changes in religious beliefs, complicated grief, posttraumatic stress disorder, and major depression following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 4(1), 10–18.
Taylor, S., Charura, D., Williams, G., Shaw, M., Allan, J., Cohen, E., Meth, F., & O'Dwyer, L. (2020). Loss, grief, and growth: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of experiences of trauma in asylum seekers and refugees. Traumatology. Advance online publication.
The hostages perceive negotiations, especially extended ones, as evidence
of indifference, hostility, and rejection, so that the very people who are negotiating
for their release seem to be what? To select and enter your answer go to .