Disaster: Its Visible and Hidden Psychological Effects and Recovery
Lecturer: Bonnie Buchele, Ph.D.
(International Association for Group Psychotherapy and Group Processes, Executive board member)
Language: English (Japanese translation available)
When disaster strikes, immediate effects are visible. People need food, clothing, medical care – and the world responds. The need to survive kicks in and all else is overridden. Some psychological damage is also clearly visible right away. For instance, the loss of a loved one is recognized by everyone as one of life’s most painful events. But disasters have many other psychological effects that are only apparent later. Most human beings are healthy and strong so they cope, but all coping mechanisms come at a cost that can be very high. People change as a result of living through such experiences because catastrophes often involve extreme shame, boundary violations, or loss of identity and meaning which can be experienced as a symbolic death of self, thus constituting trauma. Recent neuroscientific research also reveals that the structure of the brain is changed by traumatic experiences.
Traumatic reactions can be hidden; they may appear later and seem to be unrelated to the disaster so that unnecessary suffering occurs. Increased stress in interpersonal relationships, suicide, abuse, lowered levels of functioning and substance abuse are examples of common effects that are not necessarily easily seen as related to the disaster. Talking about traumatic experiences within the context of a safe environment or container that includes secure attachments at the pace and in the amount of detail dictated by the survivor can be an important step toward healing from the painful consequences. The ultimate result can be that less costly ways of coping can be adopted and integration of the changes into the sense of self can occur. Dr. Buchele will discuss more fully the visible and hidden psychological effects of disasters as well as ways to facilitate recovery by discovering the connections that have remained unclear and have led to psychologically costly coping.