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Tragedy, trauma and resilience - reflections on the Manchester Bombing

Posted on 02 June 2017

Some of the scenes from the centre of Manchester this week have made me cry and also made me reflect on the bravery, resilience and sheer wonderfulness of ordinary people.

My anxiety hypnotherapy clinic in Harley Street this week has seen many worries aired, tears shed and sympathies expressed as my clients and I have tried to make sense of the horror. And our hearts went out to everyone injured, killed and those left behind to mourn. One thing which we all took comfort from was the love and kindness which poured from the people of Manchester and across the country. We talked about the incredible (as usual!) response of our health and emergency services and the smallest acts of kindness which we had seen from ordinary people. We agreed that we saw the resilience which enables people to carry on in the most difficult times.

In the UK, we have something of a national pride in resilience. Many of us will have heard of ‘the spirit of the Blitz,’ in the 2nd World War, stories of stiff upper lips and cups of tea, carrying on in the face of nightly air raids. This may be a bit of a myth, there is some evidence that there was a lot of undiagnosed trauma among civilian population at the time. But there was tremendous resilience as well, before the 2nd World War most commentators had thought that sustained bombing of civilians would cause mass panic and a complete breakdown of society. It didn’t. People found ways to cope, and we have seen this with the current events in Manchester as well. As many time before, we have watched people find comfort through community, coming together in public squares, using old rituals such as laying flowers and developing new ones such as getting bee tattoos.

There is another common theme, a renewed pride in the values of a community. In the London Blitz of 1940 people spoke of London Pride, in the events in Manchester people spoke of the spirit and resilience of a multicultural, modern city. A feeling of local community and identity is something in which many people find a great comfort, so The I Love Manchester flags, banner and badges are everywhere.

When threatened by the worst, people identify the best in themselves and those around them and take comfort and soothing from that.

If we understand this, I believe we can be very flexible in what we do in these situations. It seems we need to receive more, and to do more than simply saying anyone exposed to terror and war must be traumatised and need some form of psychological intervention. There is evidence that just shoving counselling at people is not always the best response. After the 7/7 bombing in London the New England Journal of Medicine reported that immediate counselling by strangers had no positive effect and may have even got in the way of more natural, organic ways of coping such as talking with friends and family.

Perhaps for some people, the solace of community, taking action to help survivors through joining or setting up support networks or just making tea and giving a stranger a hug is what is helps us cope. What can we learn from this? The lesson may be that to feel connected and to feel needed is a great soothing mechanism when we are faced with unbearable events.

It is of these things that resilience is made. And resilience is the key to balanced mental well-being.

Resilience can build the sort of strength which can stand us in good stead when things are awful Terrorism makes us all feel less safe, less secure and more aware of how the fragility of our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

What we do with these feelings is part of our individual make up and belief systems. The emotions we feel are complex and many-sided and will differ in each of us. For some people, these feelings may bring huge anxiety and depression. For others, they may lead to a new determination to live life for now and value what is important. And this latter mindset can be positive, often leading to a change in perspective. One common change is for people to decide to worry less about work and spend more time with loved ones, another is to stop putting off our goals and to go for it.

So, we can see the same events, and even the same initial thoughts about events can lead to a completely different attitude, to a completely different mindset and a completely different outcome. The old adage ‘you cannot control events, but you can control how you feel about events,’ turns out to be true.

If you are feeling very anxious at the moment you may decide that now is the time to try to change that mindset and build resilience. If you need help with this, we can work together to address deep-rooted beliefs and patterns of thought which may be making it harder for you to cope when the outside world looks very scary.

Even if you have not been directly involved in terrible events, you may still suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress. We all process horrific events differently and for some people even just seeing them on TV can cause problems.

Relatively new techniques such as Eye Movement Integration and Havening Technique can have remarkably quick results and help overcome these symptoms. Do not feel that you have no right to feel bad just because you were not directly involved. If you are feeling that you cannot process or understand what has happened and that is causing you emotional pain then call me today.



Fiona Nicolson on Google+

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