Thursday, January 10, 2013

Recovering from Disappointment

Life surely has its ups and downs. Whether you lose a friend, a promotion, a significant other, or you just fail at achieving a goal, the anguish of disappointment can be devastating. Whether the disappointment is in us or in someone else, the overall feelings of disappointment are akin to the grieving process. Personally, I believe we can work better at grieving the disappointment with others versus the disappointment with ourselves. For me, being disappointed in myself leaves me feeling out of sorts, lost, and, dare I say, vulnerable. It's often a reminder of how fragile life and the human experience is as it pertains to the loss of confidence. Disappointment can kick you squarely in the teeth leaving you dazed and confused. It is never a good feeling, but, with the right direction, you can recover from the feeling. The feeling of disappointed is also a part of life. Do we need disappointment? Well, maybe. I think we all need a modest level of disappointment to achieve a greater sense of self discovery. I believe a feeling of disappointment in ourselves can lead us eventually to a path of greatness. Paulo Coehlo once wrote, “When you find your path, you must not be afraid. You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes. Disappointment, defeat, and despair are the tools God uses to show us the way.” We all make decisions in our lives which may turn out exactly the way we planned or go up in flames. Those decisions often lead to feelings of success or feelings of disappointment. As Coehlo suggests, the ability to recover from a mistake may turn out, in the end, to be exactly what we need. Have you ever been presented with a challenge knowing all the results would not be desirable? Have you ever had to make a decision which you knew had the potential to create disappointment in others and in yourself? Sure you have. We all have had those moments. We have all had those moments of shear dread of making an impactful decision which could lead to disastrous results or tremendous disappointment. But, as Joel Olsteen said, “You must make a decision that you are going to move on. It won't happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say, ‘I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am, I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.” Recovering from disappointment is not an easy or desired task. It takes internal power to rise up and move ahead. The power has to come from deep inside. Deep inside the place you reserve for the most daunting of tasks. It is within that place you live and thrive. You must face the truth of being embarrassed and ashamed of yourself and know these feelings will hopefully pass. Develop a sense of humility and be honest with yourself and others. Even if the ultimate honesty is painful, put it out there and be exposed. Be vulnerable. Be human. The worst thing that happens is you make the wrong decision and you lose what you had. The best thing that happens is you make the right decision and gain something valuable. Either way, it is much better to face the possible disappointment head on. Once the decision is made and everything has been exposed, the results of the decision will happen and you deal with the consequences whether they are good or bad. Life is measured by both the disappointments and the successes. Take the risk of losing something to gain something. Take the risk of disappointment to feel joy, happiness, and freedom. Being burdened by disappointment only allows you to wallow within sorrow. Be free to express yourself and move on. If a person is disappointed in you, apologize and move on. You will make mistakes in life. Sometimes huge mistakes, but acknowledge the mistake. Apologize for the disappointment and move on. We are not perfect beings. We can't be perfect. Remember, life is a journey. During this journey, we will stumble and fall at times. We will not only make mistakes, but we will create disappointment. Take a moment and acknowledge the journey. It may be helpful to listen to the words of Thomas Jefferson, “If I am to meet with a disappointment, the sooner I know it, the more of life I shall have to wear it off.”

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Heart was made to be Broken

"The heart was made to be broken.” ~ Oscar Wilde Do you remember your first true love? That person who made your heart and mind flutter for a moment when they looked at or touched you? The feelings of love rush in like the tide and we get swept away with feelings of excitement, joy, and passion. Your thoughts turn to the person every waking moment. You dream about that person. You live to hear the sound of their voice. At times, you resist these feelings in the hopes to gain some control over yourself almost wanting those feelings to just go away even for just a minute. You can't help but falling in love and wanting those feelings to last. You tell everyone your feelings because you are not afraid of these feelings. You expose your inner dialogue because you need to proclaim to the world this feeling of bliss. Do you remember the moment when this feeling ended? Do you remember when those feelings were changed into something you did not recognize? That moment when the person stopped loving or caring for you in the way which you grew accustomed. You feel as if the world is collapsing around you. It is like being stuck in a box and the walls are caving in. Sleepless nights, anxious moments, low feelings all become a reality. You tell yourself you will be ok, but you really do not believe it. You smile politely when your friends say you will find someone new. It hurts. It really hurts. The feelings may linger for days, weeks, months, or years. Time stands still when your heart is broken. Time has no meaning. Songs, places, people are painful remindersof the love you once had. Louise Eldrich once said, “Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” Heartbreak is a part of our human condition. If we have never experienced a heartbreak, dare I say, we have not truly lived and put ourselves out there in the world. Love, at best, is a risky proposition. We run the risk of not having our love reciprocated leaving us vulnerable and emotionally naked. If our love is reciprocated, our risk pays off 1000 fold. Recently, I spoke with a couple who have been married for 70 years. They both are 90 years old and were high school sweethearts who married shortly after graduation. I asked them if they ever experienced heartbreak prior to them meeting. He looked at me with a smile, "I never had to have my heart broken because it didn't beat until I met my bride." For them, the risk was investing in each other's love and rolling the dice of life. Although a wonderful couple, I firmly believe they are not the norm in society. I believe the majority of us have gone or are going through heartbreak at some point of our lives. How do we mend a broken heart? Mending a broken heart is going to be different for everyone. It is not an easy process especially as an adult. There are no quick fixes and clearly no magic solutions. Do not fool yourself into believing you will stop loving the other person. However the relationship ended, there was love there at some point. Those feelings just do not go away. They are stored in the lovely computer known as the brain. Those feelings are activated any time you hear "our song", eat at "our restaurant", or hear from "our friends". Do yourself a huge favor and never tell yourself you will stop loving the person. Just acknowledge it and begin the healing process. Trust me, it is much easier. So how do we get through this pain of a broken heart? The healing process is just that, a process. Similar to the physical death of a person,we grieve the emotional death of a relationship. The grieving process does not have time limits. I wish I could give you exact times when the hurt will dissipate, but I would be lying if I did. The following stages are a mere outline of how the grieving process works. Stage One: Shockand Denial - You are devastated and life is turned upside down. You may say, "This is not happening to me", "Why me?", or "This is all a dream". It is the mind's way of buffering you from the pain of the loss. Stage Two: Bargaining - As you emerge from the initial shock, you begin to think of ways to correct the loss. "If only" statements are used. "If only had I called more often" "If only I had said I love you more". You question yourself in the attempt to make sense of the loss. Stage Three: Anger - Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger,even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal. There are many other emotions under the anger and you will get to them in time, but anger is the emotion we are most used to managing. The truth is that anger has no limits. Underneath anger is pain, your pain. It is natural to feel deserted and abandoned, but we live in a society that fears anger. Anger is strength and it can be an anchor, giving temporary structure tothe nothingness of loss. At first grief feels like being lost at sea: no connection to anything. Then you get angry at someone, maybe a friend who says the wrong thing, a commercial about relationships or even a family member. Suddenly you have a structure – your anger toward them. The anger becomes a bridge over the open sea, a connection from you to them. It is something to hold onto; and a connection made from the strength of anger feels better than nothing. We usually know more about suppressing anger than feeling it. The anger is just another indication of the intensity of your love. Stage Four: Depression - After Anger,our attention moves squarely into the present. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever. It is important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to a loss of love. We withdraw from life, left in a fog of intense sadness, wondering, perhaps, if there is any point in going on alone? Why go on at all? Depression after a loss is too often seen as unnatural: a state to be fixed, something to snap out of. The first question to ask yourself is whether or not the situation you are in is actually depressing. Heartbreak is a very depressing situation, and depression is a normal and appropriate response. To not experience depression after a heartbreak would be unusual. When a loss fully settles in your soul, the realization that your heart has been broken is understandably depressing. If grief is a process of healing,then depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way. Stage Five: Acceptance - Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “allright” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. Most people don’tever feel OK or all right about a broken heart. This stage is about accepting the reality the relationship has ended and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live. We must try to live now in a world where our love relationship has ended. In resisting this new norm, at first many people want to maintain life as it was before the broken heart. In time, through bits and pieces of acceptance, however, we see that we cannot maintain the past intact. It has been forever changed and we must readjust. We must learn to reorganize roles,re-assign them to others or take them on ourselves. Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones. As we begin to live again and enjoy our life, we often feel that in doing so, we are betraying our lost love. We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful loverelationships, new inter-dependencies. Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs; we move, we change, we grow, we evolve. We may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives. We invest in our friendships and in our relationship with ourselves. We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time. Ok, I have accepted the heart break, now what? The practically of moving on from the ending of a relationship varies from person to person. Friends will tell you to get out there and date. Co-workers may try to fix you up with someone. You may dive head first into work and isolate for awhile. You may start dating right away. The re-entry phase is different for everyone. I can offer a few things to try to help with there-entry: 1. Stop the insanity - Put away the pictures, stop going on the other person's Facebook or Twitter, stop listening to the songs you listened to together. Constant reminders impede the re-entry phase. 2. Get in rhythm - Experiencing new or inspirational music may change mood. Listen to songs that get the blood flowing. 3. Hit the gym -Try some physical activity to sweat out your troubles. Physical exercise may allow some frustrationto be released. 4. Smiling is my favorite - As it has been said, "Laughter is the best medicine". Watch a funny movie, go see a comedy show, laugh with friends, or read a funny novel. Put yourself in a position to laugh. 5. Surround yourself with positives - Try to reconnect with positive friends and people. Put yourself in a position where the people around you are a positive influence and have your best interests at heart. 6. A whole new world - Try something new or different. Involve yourself in new activities or experiences. Now is the time to reinvent and re-enter. Heartbreak is never easy. It is a difficult process to go through, but with persistence and patience, you will get through it. Do not be afraid to risk loving someone again. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable again.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

End of Watch - The Final Inspection

End Of Watch Lt. Joseph Szczerba New Castle County Police, New Castle, DE 09-23-11. Lt Szczerba fatally stabbed while trying to subdue a suspect that was high after huffing bath salts and was out breaking into cars. Lt Szczerba is the 1st officer on the department to be killed in the line of duty since 1972.

God Speed Lt. Joseph Szczerba.

"The Final Inspection"

The policeman stood and faced his God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining.
Just as brightly as his brass.
"Step forward now, policeman.
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My church have you been true?"
The policeman squared his shoulders and said,
"No, Lord, I guess I ain't,
Because those of us who carry badges
can't always be a saint.
I've had to work most Sundays,
and at times my talk was rough,
and sometimes I've been violent,
Because the streets are awfully tough.
But I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep....
Though I worked a lot of overtime
When the bills got just too steep.
And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.
I know I don't deserve a place
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around
Except to calm their fear.
If you've a place for me here,
Lord, It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't.....I'll understand.
There was silence all around the throne
Where the saints had often trod.
As the policeman waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.
"Step forward now, policeman,
You've borne your burdens well.
Come walk a beat on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in hell."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Remembering September 11, 2001

Writing this blog was not an easy task. I have started and stopped several times trying to organize my thoughts and collect my emotions. As one of the numerous professionals who responded to the tragic events of September 11th, I did not want to sound too preachy nor did I want to come across as pretentious. My hope for the blog was to give personal accounts, recollections, and thoughts about the day and the ten years that followed. I realized, as I jotted ideas down, every first responder who went to New York has a story and my story is not unlike anyone else. There are some memories I will keep private and others I discuss. September 11th, 2001 was a day I will never forget, but, at times, wish I never remember. It was a day the world, as most of us knew it, changed. We can all recall where we were, who we were with, and what we were doing as the attacks began. My time spent in New York City helping people to recover from the tragedy opened my eyes wider than they were ever opened before. From the moment the attacks occurred to the last day of my several months helping in New York, I saw, experienced, and felt things I would never forget. As I think about that day and the ten years after, five very distinct words come to mind: anger, sadness, love, hope, and admiration.

Anger, for me, came a long time after the initial attack. I held back feeling angry because of all the work that needed to be done. I had to keep my game face on and help those affected by the tragedy. I do not recall feeling anything other than compassion my first month in New York City. I almost felt ashamed to be angry because of the loss and devastation. I remember talking with a Port Authority Officer and he told me he had no time to be angry because of the job he has to do. I’m not saying people were not angry. Trust me, there were a lot of angry people. I just placed my anger on hold for awhile. Anger is a normal and essential human emotion. It is easy for all us to be angry at the group of people responsible for the tragedies of 9/11, but I think the anger felt is more of a constant reminder of how the world changed. Shortly after 9/11, I had to take a business trip requiring me to fly. If you can remember, air travel was, at best, a surreal experience during the first few years post 9/11. Security was intense and lines were very long. I booked my flight and was notified to give at least three hours to go through security and check my bags. I will be the first to admit, time has always been a problem for me, but I knew it would be beneficial to adhere to the new security standards. As I arrived at my gate, the line was already a mile long. Soldiers with weapons were standing at the gate and mostly everyone was silent in line. I took my place and waited for my turn to pass through the security. As I stood there, an older couple hurried into line obviously in a rush not to miss their flight. I tried to keep to myself, but they were making their displeasure about the wait known to everyone. Twenty minutes in line felt like two hours. The more we waited, the more the older couple complained. I gathered from their loud conversation, they had only given themselves forty-five minutes to check in. I was wearing a fire house job shirt which is a very distinctive shirt with the fire company’s insignia and logo. A soldier walked down the line and nodded to me. Recognition, maybe. Being friendly, more likely. His simple act of acknowledgement was all the couple needed to launch into their tirade of ridicule and disdain for the military. And then it happened, the older man turned to me and said, “I bet you will get special privileges because of what you are wearing.” An explosion went off in my brain. The pain, the anger, the sadness from the recent tragic events came to me in one single blow. I have no idea what made me so angry at this little old man, but the anger was intense. I turned to him and said, “I’m sorry sir that the deaths of 343 fire fighters created an inconvenience for you today.” I did not know what else to say or do. I said what I said and turned around. Defiant, angry, appropriate, I’m not sure but it quieted them down. The gentleman in front of me turned and thanked me. I went through security and life went on. I think back to that moment and realized that little old man gave me my personal definition of anger for 9/11. The senseless deaths of over 3000 people created an inconvenience for others. It still gets me angry to think about it ten years later.

We all experience sadness in our own unique ways. Some are sad because of the loss of loved ones. Some are sad because of how the world changed. Some are sad because of the horrible memories of the attacks. Some are sad because they had to watch loved ones go off to war. My sadness stems from the overall sense of loss. The national pride and unity was incredible following 9/11. People seemed more kind and caring. For a moment in time, we all acknowledged our American pride. We flew our flags proudly. We had our flags on our houses and our vehicles. Flag makers could not produce them fast enough. But, our myopic view as a society reared its ugly head. After a short period of time, flags came down. I remember seeing a few tattered flags on the roadside and thinking how sad of a thing that was. A few flags turned into many forgotten worn flags on the roadside and, eventually, seeing a flag displayed with pride became a rarity. The sadness I feel is not because people do not fly flags, but it is because we, as a society, went back, for the most part, to what we were before. It is sad we only come together in times of tragedy. I remember a trip to New York City as a kid. I was only about 8 years old at the time. My first thoughts of the Twin Towers were ones of amazement and curiosity. The shear enormity of the Towers, for an 8 year old, was staggering. I am sad my children did not get to see them and experience what I experienced. I am sad all the children born after that day will not get to see the Twin Towers and marvel at their size. I am sad at the senseless loss of life and the pain the families of the deceased feel. This sadness started when I encountered the empty helmets worn by firefighters who rushed into the Twin Towers never to come back. 343 firefighters, 37 Port Authority Police officers, 23 police officers, 3000 civilians died and an additional 6000 people injured for no good reason. Not a single person killed that day imagined that would be their last day on earth. The world changed for everyone that day. This is where my sadness lies.

About nine days after the attacks, I emerged from an area where I had been talking to several firefighters. I was covered in ash and dirt feeling exhausted. I sat down on a bench and held my head in my hands. I was looking for a moment of peace, comfort, maybe even some absolution. A young girl walked up to me without saying a word and hugged me. I had no idea who she was nor did I ever see her again, but in that moment of exhaustion and inner pain, she gave me a glimpse of peace. Her simple act of a hug, whether she meant it or not, helped me to understand the sadness of the situation would eventually dissipate. When I think of the past ten years, the feeling of love comes from a deep place which was forged by those random acts of kindness. Compassion and caring about others seemed to take shape. I remember the Campbell’s soup trucks lining up near Ground Zero to offer a hot meal to the workers. Restaurants would open their doors for you and people would shake your hand just to say they appreciated you. I do not think that feeling was ever lost. To me, that is a feeling of love. The mere fact people appreciated what you have done for others helped me grow as a person. I have tried not to take people in my life for granted, but after 9/11, I tried even harder to show my love for the people in my life. There have been times where I was left flat with those feelings but, for the most part, I have remained true to those feelings. I have been accused of giving people too many chances or holding on to things too tightly, but I firmly believe you get what you give. If I give a second chance, maybe I will get one in return.

Moments after watching the Twin Towers fall, I was given the task of assessing and speaking to a group of children who had just lost one or both parents in the attacks. These were the children in the day care centers in the towers on the lower floors. I gathered them around and found some paper, pencils, and crayons. I asked the kids to draw whatever came to mind. Most of the kids created pictures of the planes going into the towers or the towers on fire, but one little girl’s picture was a rabbit in a grassy field. I leaned down, a bit befuddled by the picture, and asked the little girl, “Who’s that?” The little girl looked up at me and said, “That’s Max. He’s my bunny. I hope someone will feed him tonight because he is home all alone and I don’t want him to be scared.” Needless to say, I was touched and a bit choked up. Hope is the emotional state which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life. It is the "feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best" or the act of "looking forward to with desire and reasonable confidence" or "feeling that something desired may happen". Even in the midst of the tragedy of that day, this little girl retained a sense of hope. My hope stems from similar feelings. Not that her bunny Max was fed, even though that would have been a nice thing, but, rather, there is something beyond this event. Hope we continue to grow as a nation. Hope all the troops come home safe and alive. Hope the tragedies of 9/11 never occur again. Hope for the families of the deceased to find some sort of peace some day. Hope for the members of the emergency services to continue doing their jobs while staying and keeping us safe. I have tremendous hope I can continue to do my job helping people during disasters.

If you served or are serving in the armed forces, the quote, “All gave some, some gave all” has a very distinct and special meaning. With the utmost respect for our military personnel, I believe this phrase can also be used for the first responders of 9/11. There were thousands of men and women who responded to New York City, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania with the sole purpose of helping those in need. These people did not know if there would be injured or dead or even other perils waiting for them. They wanted to help. They wanted to help the victims and they wanted to help their nation. I remember meeting other disaster workers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians from as far as California and even Hawaii who offered to help during the months after the attacks. As the work progressed, there were new faces to relieve the exhausted and weary. I admire the businessmen and women who continue to work day after day following the attacks. I admire the construction workers who are now rebuilding WTC1, the Freedom Tower. I admire the resolve of the citizens of the United States. Most of all, I admire my rough and ready crew who joined me during the relief efforts a few minutes after the attacks until the very last one of us went home months later and who join me every year in New York for the memorial services.

We cannot change what happened on September 11th, 2001. We can only learn from it. My thoughts and prayers are and will always be with the friends and families of all the victims of 9/11.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kids reactions to the 10th Anniversary of 9/11

The tragedies of September 11, 2001 unfolded before the world through the media coverage of the event including the days that followed. In this area, a television station played the image of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center 1856 times during the first week following the attacks. This type of television coverage meant that many children were exposed to distressing images that may have been hard for them to comprehend.

The television coverage of the 10th anniversary of these attacks may prove to be the single most extensive media coverage of any memorial service. Teens and young adults who were children at the time of the attacks may be re-exposed to those same distressing images during the memorial coverage. Children who were not born yet or too young to comprehend the gravity of the situation may be exposed to those images as parents relive the events of that September morning. In situations like this, it is important for parents to monitor what their children are watching and, at the same time, help them understand and cope with the situation.

Children who have been exposed to a traumatic event are afraid of many of the same things adults are afraid of: that the event will happen again; that they or their family will be hurt; or that they will be separated from family members. They may also have fears based on misconceptions of what has happened. Witnessing the images of September 11th may leave children especially frightened, insecure, or upset about what happened. They may display a variety of emotional responses after watching the memorial services and replay of the attacks. It is important to recognize that these responses are normal.

How a parent reacts will make a great difference in the child's understanding and recovery after witnessing or reliving the distressing images. Parents should make every effort to keep the children informed about what is happening and to explain it in terms that they can understand. Remember, the attacks happened 10 years ago, but for the child witnessing the images for the first time, that child may feel as if the attacks are currently happening.

Usually a child's emotional response to this type of situation does not last long. Be aware that some problems may not appear immediately. The memorial service images may bring back memories the child had dealt with ten years ago. Nightmares, tears, sadness and anger are all normal reactions to the re-exposure of emotional pain. Talking openly with your children will help them to recover more quickly from witnessing the images and re-opening old wounds. Reassure your child that you are there to protect him, and that your family is safe and together. Provide extra physical reassurance. Hugging, sitting close to read a book, and back rubs can help restore a child's sense of safety. Give your child a comforting toy or something of yours to keep. Your child may be afraid of separating from you, and keeping a reminder of you close by can help. Be available as much as you can for talking with and comforting your child.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricane Survival Kit

During a hurricane, and possibly for days or even weeks afterward, electricity and other utilities might not be available. Debris and/or water might block the roads, preventing vehicles from getting in our out of your neighborhood. Help might not reach you for days after the hurricane, so you’ll need to be completely self-sufficient during that period.

Here are some of the most critical supplies to have on hand, well before a hurricane threatens:

• At least a 3-day and preferably a 7-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day)
• Non-perishable food
• Formula, diapers, and other baby supplies
• Manual can opener
• First aid kit
• Prescription and non-prescription medicines
• Toiletries
• Cell phones and battery-powered cell phone chargers
• Battery-powered radios and flashlights
• Plenty of batteries
• Extra cash
• Blankets, sleeping bags, books, and games (especially if evacuating)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Traumatic Reactions

Psychological trauma is a type of damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of a traumatic event. When that trauma leads to posttraumatic stress disorder, damage may involve physical changes inside the brain and to brain chemistry, which changes the person's response to future stress.

A traumatic event involves a single experience, or an enduring or repeating event or events, that completely overwhelm the individual's ability to cope or integrate the ideas and emotions involved with that experience. The sense of being overwhelmed can be delayed by weeks, years or even decades, as the person struggles to cope with the immediate circumstances.

Psychological trauma can lead to serious long-term negative consequences that are often overlooked even by mental health professionals: If clinicians fail to look through a trauma lens and to conceptualize client problems as related possibly to current or past trauma, they may fail to see that trauma victims, young and old, organize much of their lives around repetitive patterns of reliving and warding off traumatic memories, reminders, and affects.

Trauma can be caused by a wide variety of events, but there are a few common aspects. There is frequently a violation of the person's familiar ideas about the world and of their human rights, putting the person in a state of extreme confusion and insecurity. This is also seen when people or institutions, depended on for survival, violate or betray or disillusion the person in some unforeseen way.

Psychological trauma may accompany physical trauma or exist independently of it. Typical causes and dangers of psychological trauma are sexual abuse, bullying, domestic violence, indoctrination, the victim of alcoholism, the threat of either, or the witnessing of either, particularly in childhood. Catastrophic events such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, war or other mass violence can also cause psychological trauma. Long-term exposure to situations such as extreme poverty or milder forms of abuse, such as verbal abuse, can be traumatic (though verbal abuse can also potentially be traumatic as a single event).

However, different people will react differently to similar events. One person may experience an event as traumatic while another person would not suffer trauma as a result of the same event. In other words, not all people who experience a potentially traumatic event will actually become psychologically traumatized.

Some theories suggest childhood trauma can lead to violent behavior. Some ideas believe such violent behavior can be as extreme as serial murder. For example, Hickey's Trauma-Control Model which suggests childhood trauma for serial murderers may serve as a triggering mechanism resulting in an individual’s inability to cope with the stress of certain events.

People who go through these types of extremely traumatic experiences often have certain symptoms and problems afterward. How severe these symptoms are depends on the person, the type of trauma involved, and the emotional support they receive from others. Reactions to and symptoms of trauma can be wide and varied, and differ in severity from person to person. A traumatized individual may experience one or several of them.

After a traumatic experience, a person may re-experience the trauma mentally and physically, hence avoiding trauma reminders, also called triggers, as this can be uncomfortable and even painful. They may turn to psychoactive substances including alcohol to try to escape the feelings. Re-experiencing symptoms are a sign that the body and mind are actively struggling to cope with the traumatic experience.

Triggers and cues act as reminders of the trauma, and can cause anxiety and other associated emotions. Often the person can be completely unaware of what these triggers are. In many cases this may lead a person suffering from traumatic disorders to engage in disruptive or self-destructive coping mechanisms, often without being fully aware of the nature or causes of their own actions. Panic attacks are an example of a psychosomatic response to such emotional triggers.

Consequently, intense feelings of anger may surface frequently, sometimes in very inappropriate or unexpected situations, as danger may always seem to be present. Upsetting memories such as images, thoughts, or flashbacks may haunt the person, and nightmares may be frequent. Insomnia may occur as lurking fears and insecurity keep the person vigilant and on the lookout for danger, both day and night.

The person may not remember what actually happened while emotions experienced during the trauma may be reexperienced without the person understanding why (see Repressed memory). This can lead to the traumatic events being constantly experienced as if they were happening in the present, preventing the subject from gaining perspective on the experience. This can produce a pattern of prolonged periods of acute arousal punctuated by periods of physical and mental exhaustion.

In time, emotional exhaustion may set in, leading to distraction, and clear thinking may be difficult or impossible. Emotional detachment, as well as dissociation or "numbing out", can frequently occur. Dissociating from the painful emotion includes numbing all emotion, and the person may seem emotionally flat, preoccupied, distant, or cold. The person can become confused in ordinary situations and have memory problems.

Some traumatized people may feel permanently damaged when trauma symptoms do not go away and they do not believe their situation will improve. This can lead to feelings of despair, loss of self-esteem, and frequently depression. If important aspects of the person's self and world understanding have been violated, the person may call their own identity into question.

Often despite their best efforts, traumatized parents may have difficulty assisting their child with emotion regulation, attribution of meaning, and containment of post-traumatic fear in the wake of the child's traumatization, leading to adverse consequences for the child. In such instances, it is in the interest of the parent(s) and child for the parent(s) to seek consultation as well as to have their child receive appropriate mental health services.

Trauma can be caused by man-made and natural disasters, including war, abuse, violence, earthquakes, mechanized accidents (car, train, or plane crashes, etc.) or medical emergencies.

Responses to psychological trauma There are several behavioral responses common towards stressors including the proactive, reactive, and passive responses. Proactive responses include attempts to address and correct a stressor before it has a noticeable effect on lifestyle. Reactive responses occur after the stress and possible trauma has occurred, and are aimed more at correcting or minimizing the damage of a stressful event. A passive response is often characterized by an emotional numbness or ignorance of a stressor.

Those who are able to be proactive can often overcome stressors and are more likely to be able to cope well with unexpected situations. On the other hand, those who are more reactive will often experience more noticeable effects from an unexpected stressor. In the case of those who are passive, victims of a stressful event are more likely to suffer from long term traumatic effects and often enact no intentional coping actions. These observations may suggest that the level of trauma associated with a victim is related to such independent coping abilities.

Betrayal trauma theory suggests that psychogenic amnesia is an adaptive response to childhood abuse. When a parent or other powerful figure violates a fundamental ethic of human relationships, victims may need to remain unaware of the trauma not to reduce suffering but rather to promote survival. Amnesia enables the child to maintain an attachment with a figure vital to survival, development, and thriving. Analysis of evolutionary pressures, mental modules, social cognitions, and developmental needs suggests that the degree to which the most fundamental human ethics are violated can influence the nature, form, and processes of trauma and responses to trauma.

There is also a distinction between trauma induced by recent situations and long-term trauma which may have been buried in the unconscious from past situations such as childhood abuse. Trauma is often overcome through healing; in some cases this can be achieved by recreating or revisiting the origin of the trauma under more psychologically safe circumstances, such as with a therapist.

In times of war, psychological trauma has been known as shell shock or combat stress reaction. Psychological trauma may cause an acute stress reaction which may lead on to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD emerged as the label for this condition after the Vietnam War in which many veterans returned to their respective countries demoralized, and sometimes, addicted to psychoactive substances. Psychological trauma is treated with therapy and, if indicated, psychotropic medications.

Following traumatic events, persons involved are often asked to talk about the events soon after, sometimes even immediately after the event occurred in order to start a healing process. This practice may not garner the positive results needed to recover psychologically from a traumatic event.

Victims of traumatic occurrences who were debriefed immediately after the event in general do far better than others who received therapy at a later time, though there is also evidence to suggest forcing immediate debriefing may distort the natural psychological healing process.