The Science of strong vs weak in our societies

Was reading through an excellent book by Bessel van der Kolk and others called Traumatic Stress – The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind Body and Society.  Written in the 1980s, I discovered it during my studies at Massey in 2006.  This is what our world leaders, governments, health professionals and judiciary know about trauma and violence – which is why I know they are corrupt and uncivilized – you don’t ignore science when dealing with these issues, you learn from it and react accordingly so you DON’T perpetuate it.  Was going to just write out a couple of paragraphs but felt I needed to do more of it.  Anybody interested should get hold of the book though, its brilliant, true, ignored and brilliant.

NOTE: I don’t intend to proof read or correct spelling, so excuse any typos.

Trauma and Its Challenge to Society

“Shell shock.  How many a brief bombardment had its long-delayed after-effect in the minds of these survivors.  Not then was their evil hour, but now; now, in the sweating suffocation of nightmare, in paralysis of limbs, in the stammering of dislocated speech.  In the name of civilisation these soldiers had been martyred and it remained for civilisation to prove that their martyrdom wasn’t a dirty swindle.

Siegfried Sassoon WWI solider and poet –

People have always gathered in communities and organisations for aid in dealing with outside challenges.  They seek close emotional relationships with others in order to elp them anticipate, meet, and integrate difficult experiences.  Emotional attachment is probably the primary protection against feelings of helplessness and meaninglessness; it is essential for biological survival in children and without it, existential meaning is unthinkable in adtults.  For young children, the family is usually a very effective sources of protection against traumatization and most children are amazingly resilient as long as they have a caregiver who is emotionally and physically available.  Mature people also rely on their families, colleagues and friends to provide such a protective membrane.  In recognition of this need for affiliation as a protection against trauma, it is widely accepted that the central issue in disaster management is provision and restoration of social support.


When people’s own resources are depleted, outside help needs to be mobilized to compensate for their helplessness.  During acute trauma, the social environment tends to respond with generosity; from tribal mourning ceremonies to Red Cross disaster relief, every society seems to have evolved social and religious structures that are geared to helping acutely distressed people until they can resume looking after themselves.  External validation about the reality of a traumatic experience in a safe and supportive context is a vital aspect of preventing and treating post traumatic stress. However, the creation of such a context for recovery can become very complicated when the psychological needs of victims and the needs of their social network conflict.  When victims’ helplessness persists (as in Complex, Chronic and Compounding PTSD, or when the trauma is secret, forbidden, or unacceptable (as in intrafamilial abuse or government-sanctioned violence), the trauma is unlikely to result in the mobilization of external resources, in restitution, or in the meting out of justice.  Because of the lack of validation and support, traumatic memories are more likely to continue to prey on the victims’ minds and to be expressed as anger, withdrawal or otherwise disrupted and disrupting behaviours.

(Personal note:  Really unwell at the moment, can’t stick at one thing for too long so going to post what I’ve typed, go and make some biscuits etc, then come back to it.)



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