Dealing with traumatic events - How to pick up the pieces and carry on.
By Judy Churchill
It was not difficult to choose the theme of this month’s article. However the fact that it was easy is hardly something to rejoice about. It was and is necessary to talk about it. I always aim to write about something that I am qualified to voice an opinion on and with four of the younger members of my family affected and caught up in the tragic events in Nice last month, never has this been more true.
My children and 12-year-old nephew were among those who were in the crowd that was ruthlessly mowed down by the lorry on the Promenade des Anglais. They fled the scene in terror and were in hiding until 4 in the morning. That is the short version. Suffice it to say that had it not been for my elder son, skilled and professionally trained to deal with such incidents, they and others would not be alive today. His initiative, quick thinking and level-headedness, in what is today fast becoming part of our daily lives, meant that my family are here to tell the tale. We are fortunate and all so proud of him.
But that is the only positive and what about the aftermath? What about those who lost family members and friends and are not as resilient? What about those who have neither the professional training nor the life skills to deal with such a situation? What about those who thanks to the sickening, ridiculous “naïvety”, selfishness and ineptitude of the current band of European politicians (one in particular) instilled an attitude of welcome/help your neighbour/do unto others… culture and lack of awareness and vigilance that has now led hundreds and thousands to an early grave and continues to leave families marred and traumatised for a life time.
How easy not to take a firm stand in the name of an all too convenient political correctness. Who will finally have the guts to stand up and protect their population, their values, culture, and way of life without the fear of someone calling them racist? What does it take to call a spade a spade or to reiterate the words of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, it’s come to the point where you have to make a choice: ‘It’s them or us’.
If you still disagree and insist on saying or dreaming that we are all born equal and have more in common with each other than we have differences, I suggest that you pack your bags and take a one way ticket to the Amazon – you may survive in your idealistic bubble just a little longer.
So how do we deal with the aftermath, what lessons can we learn? How many times will these attacks reoccur? Are there fast track ways of dealing with this and how can we reeducate or prepare our children and help them pick up the pieces and move on. There are no easy answers but first and foremost we need to recognize that for all the beauty in the world it does not help to be in denial. It is time to strip away the veneer, close the books of fairy tales and teach our children how to deal with, survive and above all come through this with stronger and keener insights, in short with a new awareness.
It has been said a million times over that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – but only if you know how. So here are some tips and advice from my own personal box of resilience that I hope will help those of you who have been affected personally by the recent or other tragic events and those of you who if not affected now may be in the future. The affects do not stop or disappear when the 3 days of mourning have ceased; they begin!
First fully recognize the immensity and significance of what has happened. Stop the denial so freely practiced by the politicians who would seek to have you believe that they have the situation under control. They don’t. Understand that you and all those who are similar to you are at war with those who are not. You have been attacked by people who have nothing in common with you, but the fact that they walk upright on two legs. Take a lesson from the animal kingdom and be realistic. Animals know who their enemies are; they are not so stupid as to allow a predator into their territory. Who has witnessed a hen invite a fox into the coop? If humans had half the insights that the animal kingdom shares they would already be in a stronger position to defend themselves. Educate your children to understand that there are people they cannot trust and that to defend and stand up for their way of life is not wrong. Announce who you are or Renounce who you are.
Start to lobby for the full respect of national cultural norms. In other words if someone of another nationality or culture comes into your community; they should either fully integrate culturally and linguistically or they should GO! When I was young I attended an international boarding school in England where we had an incredible cultural mix. There was one thing we all had in common, we respected the English cultural rules, integrated or were expelled! No choice, no compromise. Whatever the girls did, however they dressed when they returned to their own countries had no bearing on the way they had to behave when they were in the school community. The result: a successful, thriving, international mix.
Talk about what happened with those affected and seek counselling and help if you feel it is needed. Start to build resilience training in your children and yourselves. At last year’s award ceremony for Outward Bound Monaco, I made a speech about the importance of resilience. Resilience is taught and learnt! Outward Bound is one of the organisations that teaches and trains young people to build resilience, strength and skills to cope with life’s challenges. It puts young people through a series of tough, yet controlled challenges (as does the police force and army) to build the skills necessary for just such events as we are currently witnessing in the world today. Preparation and self-preservation are the keys and these are solid skills that everyone needs to learn today.
Understand that the Christian principles of ‘love thy neighbour’ and ‘turn the other cheek’ are not only no longer applicable in today’s multicultural, multi racist society but are naïvely dangerous. Such principles can only work where everyone thinks the same way. Along with this I include ‘forgive and forget’, easy to say but hard to apply when your own family have been affected. If we only teach our children these principles we are programming them with outdated software. Outdated political correctness got us into this situation; only new ways of thinking and tough measures will get us out. Children need to be aware of the world we really live in and to understand that not everyone can be trusted and to understand the importance of learning survival skills. No, we cannot just go on as if nothing has happened. We must all work together to operate differently so that our lives and way of thinking adapt to the current circumstances and elect politicians who are strong enough and tough enough to take the decisions that may make them unpopular but that will preserve our way of life.
So what can we do for ourselves and for others to ease the effects and pain of the trauma? Firstly understand that the brain remembers the last memory stored of a certain situation and by default will produce the same effects and side effects when it next finds itself in a situation that triggers even a tiny resemblance to the emotions of fear and desperation that it felt during the terror incident. This means that a small negative situation will produce a massive overreaction. It will therefore be important to help the brain reprogramme itself by firstly recreating small, positive events that help reconstruct positive, pleasant images and memories and secondly reliving the event in your mind as a ‘survival and glad to be alive’ experience, as opposed to a ‘victim of a terror attack’ experience. This may be hard to achieve alone but a counsellor or coach can help. It is so important to reimprint a positive escape and way forward image to allow any future challenges to be tackled in a rational way as opposed to a total emotional software collapse reaction. Make small changes to your life so that you do things now that you were saving for the future. Spend more time connecting with family and friends in a real face to face way as opposed to using technology and virtual communication. You don’t have to live each day as if it were your last but make time and create opportunities for connecting and meeting with your family over simple activities and get-togethers. Rethink your “friends” list and spend time with people who share your values and way of thinking and be very selective about whom you share your personal information and time with. It’s not a question of you can’t trust anyone, it’s a question of you can’t trust everyone.
To become resilient means creating that strength for yourself; wisely, differently and with full awareness. Picking up the pieces and sticking a life back together is not easy whatever the incident, but living in denial is even worse. You can find strength and you must dig deep, but do it in a structured, informed way. Know that we are not all the same, we do not all share the same values and no we cannot all live together in peace and harmony. History shown it and will continue to show it. Those who would have us believe that love solves all and that ‘if only there were more love in the world…’ are spreading a message of cruel denial. If only there were more common sense in the world and if only our children were educated to truly deal with and defend themselves in the current situation rather than being victims of it, they and we would be better prepared for what is today our new reality.
Stay aware, stay safe and above all PROACTIVELY reshape your lives to fit the mold that you wish to preserve and do not allow others take that away from you. Never forget that unless you are ACTIVELY part of the solution then you are part of the problem.
Next month I will be giving you a beginners’ toolbox guide to resilience.