Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Persisting Imprints of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

September 16th, 2010 · Anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, psychological crisis, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, stress, Trauma

There has been a considerable amount of valuable recent research on changes to the brains of Americans as the result of 9/11, as a recent article on the Discovery website reports.  The article relies on the research of Judith Richman and colleagues published in 2008 in the American Journal of Public Health , which concluded, among other things, as the Discovery article has it, that:

Nine years later… the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, continue to affect the way we [meaning Americans] think, remember and react to stressful situations. The actual trauma ended long ago, but for many people, measures of brain activity and body chemistry are different than they were before it happened.

What this would seem to imply is that, when large-scale traumatic events occur, the impact is experienced not only by those who are proximate to the events, who may well experience post-traumatic stress disorder and related conditions.  Also, many in the general population are impacted, who may be caused substantial distress by the events long after they occur, and who may have their reactions to stressful situations changed by their response to large-scale events.  Thinking about this in a broader context, I’m led to wonder what this research could tell us about the impact on people generally of the financial crisis of 2008-2009.

As I suggested in blog posts at the time, my clinical experience at that point strongly suggested that many people were in fact traumatized and subject to great stress as a result of the great financial uncertainties of that time.  Despite the fact that those experiences may not have resulted in diagnosable conditions under DSM-IV, I am still led to wonder about the ways in which those experiences may have changed the ways in which at least some people “think, remember and react to stressful situations”.  It may be important for each of us to ask ourselves how those events have affected us, and to seek appropriate psychotherapeutic help, if we feel that our approach to stress has changed.

I’d welcome your comments and reflections on the impact of intense stress of this kind in our lives.

Wishing you all the very best on your  personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

[cta]

PHOTO CREDIT: © Ivan Paunovic | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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G20 Toronto: What the Heck Just Happened?

July 6th, 2010 · Carl Jung, collective consciousness, collective unconscious, complexes, Current Affairs, depth psychology, G20, Ontario, panic, popular culture, Psychology and Suburban Life, Toronto, Trauma, trust

On June 26 and 27, the leaders of the G20 nations and numerous other nations met in downtown Toronto.  For many living in this area, what happened in the course of those two days has something of the character of a nightmare in the collective psyche of the City of Toronto, and indeed, the whole of the Greater Toronto Area [“GTA”] and much of Canada.

For those of you who don’t know Toronto, let me explain that it is one of the more decent and livable large cities on the North American continent.  This is a city that is genuinely, vibrantly diverse, and one that is characterized by a great deal of openness and tolerance.  As I started to write this post on Sunday, July 4th, the City’s 30th Gay Pride parade –North America’s largest — was taking place.

But you wouldn’t have recognized Toronto during the two days of the G20 summit.  As many of you will be aware, we had burning police cars,  police arrests for which there was apparently no actual legal authority, shop windows of not only large corporations but also small merchants vandalized, and a small minority of so-called “Black Bloc” rioters who effectively kept the voice of thousands who were legitimately exercising their right of free speech from being heard.

In a democracy, people often have widely divergent views.  The exchange of those views can sometimes become very heated, especially when those of more left-leaning and more right-leaning perspectives encounter one another.  And especially when the issues being considered involve concerns as fundamental as debt, poverty, economic health, globalization and the environment.

However, what occurred in Toronto over these two days was not any encounter of this kind.  It was a fundamentally different kind of experience.  People on all sides seem to have been caught up in fear and confusion.  Over the last week, there has been a sense that the GTA is gradually emerging from some kind of fog, and coming back to itself.

I don’t think that it is an over-statement to say that the G20 events and their aftermath have affected many people in a manner that has the character of trauma.   Just what it was in the course of the G20 that any particular individual found traumatic varied.  It might have been the images of burning police cars, or the windows of shops broken in, or stories of individuals arrested and held without proper authority, or video images of overwhelming police presence.  Regardless of which particular images or stories it was, the response of individuals to the G20 events seems to have been “This isn’t the Toronto I grew up in and trusted!  What has happened to my city?”

In my opinion, that’s the right question.  What happened to our city?  More specifically, what happened to the psyche of our city?  And it’s at this point, I believe, that CG Jung has some things to say that are specifically relevant.  For instance, he states at one point in his Collected Letters:

Any organization in which the voice of the individual is not heard is in danger of degenerating into a subhuman monster.

I believe that this is the essence of what was wrong with the whole G20 summit experience in Toronto.  The individual, and his or her meaning and significance, became completely lost. The whole event was completely disconnected from the life of the City of Toronto, and the experience of its citizens.  Everything about the G20, and especially its titanic size, just serves to dwarf the significance of the individual.  The forces grinding and clashing at such an event are so huge that the voice of the individual simply cannot be heard in any meaningful way.

A democracy cannot afford to do politics in this manner.  At least, it cannot do so, and expect to remain a democracy.  In my opinion, there is a deep need at this point in our history to bring political decision-making down to a more human scale.  I don’t know whether that is a point that favours the right or the left, but it is a simple reflection of human psychological reality.  If we lose the individual, we will find ourselves submerged in crowds and mobs which we cannot influence, governed by unconscious psychological forces that we cannot begin to control or even understand.  That kind of mass psychology leads to disaster.

It’s up to each of us to take a personal stand to keep our political and social life fundamentally human, and to deliver a message to politicians, officials and others: individual persons–and only individual persons–count.

My next blog post will return to my “Iron Man” series, with “Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part III: Heart Trouble

I’d welcome your reflections on the G20 in Toronto.   Do you agree with me that it took us to some pretty unsatisfactory places, or do you have another perspective on these events?  Do you agree or disagree with me that now is a particularly important time to focus on the value and dignity of individual persons in our collective and political life?  As always, I greatly value your comments and reflections — and you certainly don’t have to agree with me!

My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

[cta]

PHOTO CREDITS: © Turkbug| Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Middle Aged Person Traumatized by Financial Losses…

January 14th, 2009 · Current Affairs, depression, depth psychology, dreams, life passages, midlife, panic, Trauma, Wellness

Maybe you know this person, or maybe it's you.  When it comes right down to it …  who DIDN't lose a lot of money in the Fall of 2008?

Financial Trauma for Vibrant Jung Blog

However, the person we're describing thought that everything was going great financially, and that they were in investments that were "safe as houses" — until last Fall.  Then things suddenly and unexpectedly went south in the stock market, or in the housing market, and all of sudden there were losses — big time.  Right out of the blue things began to feel really insecure and unpredictable.  Hopes, dreams and plans that people had for themselves, or for their families suddenly began to seem threatened.

And the feeling overall was a feeling of being overwhelmed, and just plain helpless as things spiraled out of control.  Perhaps things started to seem very fearful, and completely out of control.  And the effect was so dramatic that our person was shaken shaken right to the core.  And it may well be that he or she (or you or I) realize that things just haven't felt the same since.

I'm seeing people in my practice who have been through just this kind of experience, and who are strongly feeling the need to find their footing again.  And I'm convinced that there are a lot more people out there who have had just this kind of experience who really need to be talking to someone and getting this kind of help.Financial Trauma 2 for Vibrant Jung Blog

As you might be aware, usually, when professionals refer to people who have been through trauma, they think in terms of specifically life-threatening events.  Things like life-threatening incidents in wars, or terrorist attacks, or very serious car accidents, or violent crimes, where the individual specifically feels that they are in actual, physical danger of losing their lives, or are subject to watching others lose their lives, or get maimed, or something of that sort.  But this is too narrow: experiences of serious financial loss that are experienced as threatening the well-being or economic survival of an individual or of those close to that individual have a traumatic character.

If you have experienced any of the following, you should be seeking out help from a skilled, compassionate professional:

  • Feelings of Being Overwhelmed – THis may be something you even experience physically, i.e., "limbs turn to jelly";
  • Flashbacks or Intrusive Recollections - A flashback is a memory that is so intrusive that it feels like the event is happening all over again; an intrusive recollection is less intense, but is a memory that can set off a whole chain of traumatic recollections;
  • Sleep Disturbances – Do you wake up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, or sleep restlessly and cry out in your sleep?
  • Nightmares – Do you have dreams that involve re-living the circumstances of your financial loss, or that have horrific content?
  • Bad Temper and Lack of Concentration – Do you find yourself becoming negative, argumentative, or easily irritated in ways that you were not before the experience of financial loss? 
  • Intrusive Thoughts – Do you find that your thoughts about the financial loss will simply not leave you alone?
  • Exaggerated Startle Response and/or Panic Attacks – Do you startle more easily now than you did before the loss?  Does the reaction stay with you for a log time?  Do you have panic attacks now, with sudden shortness of breath, severe chest pains or feelings of dizziness or faintness?
  • Avoidance Behaviour, Emotional Numbness or Difficulty with Intimacy – Are you avoiding people, feeling "shut down" emotionally or finding intimacy difficult, emotionally or sexually?
  • Increased Use of Alcohol, Drug Use or Comfort Eating – Are you using any of these things to block out painful reactions to what happened?
  • Depression or Traumatic Grief – If you find yourself sleeping or wanting to just do nothing, or confronting feelings of unbearable sadness since the financial losses, you may be dealing with depression or grief.
  • Guilt or Self-Blame – Do you blame yourself for the financial losses, or find yourself thinking "If only I had done things differently"?
  • Decreased Self-Esteem and Loss of Confidence – If you are confronting feelings of lack of confidence in your abilities, or of hopelessness, then it may be that the financial losses have impacted your self-esteem.

If you are experiencing these reactions now, and you have recently sustained serious financial losses, it would be a very good idea to speak to a qualified professional, as your losses may have triggered a traumatic response.  Please remember: the sooner you address the signs of trauma, the easier it is to deal with them.  You do not have to live with these responses: there are concrete things that can be done.

All the best,

Brian Collinson, www.briancollinson.ca

PHOTO CREDITS:

© Wingedsmile| Dreamstime.com

© Suzanne Tucker| Dreamstime.com

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