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OK,OK The Agony is Over!

Jun 14

Our review of the literature on trauma, resilience, and “PTSD” seems to have produced a core set of findings. I promise to be brief and not too esoteric (oh shit!!!….do you suppose “Bobbles” is watching?….he’s likely to have a tough time with that one). The results we have reviewed show us that the investigators implicitly recognized that this should be a person X situation interactional model that would best explain the factors that influence resilience for different people in different situations. The “monkey-wrench” in the works however, seems to be the absence of a universal definition of resilience. Is it the absence of psychopathology? Is it a prolonged stress response pattern? Is it superior coping throughout one’s life? Is it a personality variable that moderates outcomes (remember hardiness, locus of control, ego strength?). Some investigators produced interesting data showing intelligence and information processing as being related to coping styles (e.g. avoidance, approach, problem solving) and the different types of ego defenses used in anxiety stimulating situations. We saw evidence that coping styles and ego defenses are related to the ability to muster and display protection against overwhelming and stress producing situations. Do you recall that these investigators interestingly identified protective factors like personal and social support mechanisms that take direct action to find solutions to the various problems created by a demanding situation?

I hope that our stroll through the literature has begun to impress upon you that, for anyone interested in “PTSD”, just jumping on the “pop-psychology” band wagon is akin to arriving at a murder scene and taking the first witness’ story as gospel. “PTSD” is not some newly discovered horror that is the plague of anyone who has witnessed anything ugly, out of the ordinary, and will curse that person for a lifetime. A more valid perspective seems to begin with our ability to define a conceptually meaningful continuum of adaptation and resilience that encompasses a normal, an acute, and a chronic form of the human response to stress. The zenith of coping and adaptation, at one end of the continuum involves highly resilient behaviours over short and long term periods of positive adaptation. On the opposite end of the continuum, minimal coping is acute and long term negative adaptation; and is associated with a significant risk for developing post traumatic stress issues and other psychopathologies. Most of all I hope that you recognize that post traumatic stress is not a “one size fits all” kind of thing; where no matter who you are if you are exposed to something traumatic you will respond and it will be just like everyone else’s response. I would like you to recognize (for your own mental health) that when we are speaking of resilience following a traumatic exposure it is best to think of a continuum of adaptation. As humans we are distinguished by our differences; even our responses to a traumatic exposure. And how you respond seems to depend on who you are in interaction with the situation you have experienced. There are those who have shaken worse than you have experienced off their backs, “like water off a duck”, and those who have “caved in” under less.

Well there it is. I’ll leave it with you for a bit, then return in a few days with an announcement of sorts. See you then. And until then……..think a bit about what your personal “credo” might be? Then send it in to me and I’ll post it. Can you guess mine? I’ll tell you next time.

Dr. Mike Webster
Registered Psychologist
BCCP # 0665

One Comment
  1. Sister Mole looked around at the empty party room and asked, “Where is everyone, didn’t you send the invitations?” “Well yes I did”, answered Brother Rat. “Then where are they?”, she pressed. “I guess they’re afraid”, he offered. “Afraid of what?”, she continued. “Of each other I suppose”, he concluded.


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