Bonding with a "Good Caretaker" protects against Psychological Trauma.

April 18th, 2013

How does a caretaking agency protect its citizens in a time of crises?

Survivors immediately placed in a safe environment, in particular those united with a familiar or empathic person, are more likely to recover, using their own healthy cognitive and emotional resilience. These survivors may also be more effective in mobilizing external resources (such as friends, pastors, or therapists).

Most stress-related symptoms that occur following a single trauma, after an event that was horrific or life-threatening, will nevertheless experience a natural resolution of symptoms over days or weeks, even without treatment. This is called habituation.

Once convinced that the state of danger has subsided, survivors experience a gradual lessening of their sense of turmoil and distress, and begin to make sense of their experience. The majority of survivors of an acute trauma will be able to resume their usual routines, unfettered by fear.

Biologically, the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis is able to “switch off” its stress response once the source of danger has been removed.

Nevertheless, I have found that such individuals, even without treatment, benefit from empathic social bonding and informal discussions with friends or colleagues at the work-place. The capacity to self- reflect and constellate other “good objects” is healthy, and used by victims with good survival skills.

Healthy survivors will unconsciously mobilize strategies that enhance their sense of inner-cohesion.

Throughout development a child learns to manage external threats by identifying with and modeling the responses of good caretakers.

Early in life, your caretaker will function as an external regulator of your stress responses. You are at an advantage if your caretaker identified your stress signals and responded supportively.

Over time, children internalize their parents` coping skills. They believe things will turn out all right, confront rather than avoid problems, plan solutions, and seek support when needed.

During the “Battle of Britain” children suffered fewer stress-related symptoms when they remained with a psychologically healthy parent.

Abusive and neglectful parents lack the empathy or skills to provide the protective function of preventing or rescuing children from predatorial violence.

There is an emerging population of children presenting later as adults with a wide range of atypical psychiatric presentations as a consequence of being victims of unreported child-abuse.

Information sharing is a critical aspect of social bonding that alleviates fear.

In the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack, studies showed a very high percentage of New Yorkers, Londoners, and Israelis attempting to make numerous cell-phones calls to friends and family.

In the London transit attacks in 2005, seventy six percent of the population attempted to contact familiar others in the immediate terrorist aftermath, to check on their safety.

Individuals experiencing Mobile phone network failure, which occurred to a greater extent in New York, and less so in London, were more likely to experience substantial stress.

Maintaining contact with significant others during a traumatic event plays a vital role in maintaining psychological cohesion.

Since establishing the well-being of family and friends plays such a crucial role in reducing emotional over- arousal, this highlights the importance of back-up communication networks in anti-terrorist preparedness.

In the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic event on an individual or community, most survivors are left in a heightened state of arousal, apprehension, and even confusion.

These symptoms will usually dissipate after days or weeks, provided that the “situation on the ground” is stabilized. This consists of appropriate rescue operations and restoration of normal social infrastructure. In order to minimize the impact of trauma, the survivor has to feel the unimpeded ability to travel, communicate with significant others, and safe access to food, shelter, and medical assistance.

Recent examples of failure to provide such rescue services to civilian populations include the civil war in Darfur, and following Hurricane Katrina. In all of these cases the trauma of displacement, separation, temporary make-shift accommodation, and poverty, has caused devastating and probably permanent damage on core ego functions, children bearing the main brunt.

Many of the damaging effects of rescue-failure will only emerge later, since this subject has been well documented in long-term studies of the effects of the civil wars in Bosnia and Somalia, as well as the holocaust.

It could be argued that benevolent Super-Powers would work in co-operation to punish rogue tyrants.  Dangerous tyrants need to be contained. Real-time visualization of atrocities by war-lords and other megalomaniacs require an appropriate “containing” response for a damaged “collective – ego”.  Such “global-predators”  pose  a contagious threat to us all, which if continued unchecked pose the threat of a general chain-reactions  in a population sensitized toward threat in a political world bereft of any sense of good.

Once  leadership fails to provide appropriate trauma-prevention, or rescue functions, (such as the tolerance shown toward President Assad of Syria during his unmitigated atrocities and War-Crimes against his citizens), trauma-related symptoms are allowed to fester, not only among  victims, but for their sympathetic onlookers. The growing audience that no-longer believes that there are agencies with sufficient resources and moral integrity to confront the contemporary predatorial Archetypes who control and regulate our lives.

In the absence of true governmental Caretaker-functioning, too many victims are left with a lingering sense of vulnerably and dread.

Unfortunately, the “New Caretaker” has already defined itself. Its usually a faceless agency that prescribes and then mandates whats for our good. We are “protected” by agencies that sterilize our water and food; while poisoning the air. More work. Less recreation. There`s more to buy, and less to spend. There`s less time for parents and kids to spend together. The competition`s stiffer to score a high grade, with less chance to move up the ladder. Everyone is tense. No-one has time for another.

We need to discover that safe and soothing world, in which we can recover.

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