Floods and Trauma
By devon-counselling, Feb 10 2014 08:03PM
Watching the effects of the floods on television recently, it’s quite easy to feel shocked at the awesome power of the sea and to imagine the emotions of those most closely affected. Seeing people mopping out their flood spoilt homes or recovering possessions from a house perched precariously on the edge of a gaping void, one can empathise with their depression and sadness, perhaps their anger and frustration as well; but are there feelings that many of us cannot quite comprehend?
Many affected appear to demonstrate a great stoicism, a very British character trait and we are likely admire them for it, while also sympathising with those who are not coping so well. But do we really see the true picture? What happens when the television cameras have gone and the rest of us move on with our lives?
What many have experienced in the past few weeks could be classified as psychological trauma. When faced with danger the normal physiological response would be a rush of adrenaline which readies the body for action together with a raised level of alertness, feelings of fear and anger. However, when an experience is so extreme that action is futile then it is truly traumatic and these normally integrated functions can become dislocated. There can be profound and lasting change in physiological arousal, emotion, cognition and memory such that an individual may sometimes feel emotion with little memory of what happened or, conversely, remember everything but feel no emotion. There may be nightmares and flashbacks or a general sense of unease.
In order for a person to recover from such an experience, physical safety must be restored and the person must have the opportunity to piece together the story of what happened to them, to be able to make sense of it. Unfortunately, especially for the current flood victims, it may take a long time for their homes to be safe again or for them to find a new, safe haven. Some may find comfort in being able to relate their stories to friends and families but others will struggle on, trying to get on with their lives, without being able to talk about it.
Such people could benefit greatly from having the support of counselling at this difficult time. With a counsellor, the person can explore all the implications of what has happened, not be forced to put on a brave face for the sake of others, but truly acknowledge and express all their feelings in a safe place with a compassionate professional who can help them put themselves back together in a way that allows them to put the events behind them.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but an opportunity to regain strength and positivity.