If you want to really want to psychologically damage a person, there is one sure way. Child abuse”. These are the haunting words of Dr Esti Galili, Head of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Hadassah Hospital and Director of the Jerusalem Crisis Intervention Center (JCIC) that left all of us speechless.
A tough message but one that we must all be prepared to hear and act upon. Dr Galili was in town sharing her incredible research into the impact of trauma on human beings. Her special focus of course is on children but the messages she shared apply to us all. As an Organisational Psychologist and Humanitarian I was especially interested in her research looking at the impact of trauma experienced by those in man made disaster situations e.g. war and those in the wake of natural disasters e.g. tsunamis and earthquakes. Trauma that is imposed through man made mechanisms has the most deleterious impact on human beings. Let’s think about that for one second. We are traumatising our fellow human beings by choice. I’ll leave that one with you.
There’s so much messaging at the moment about being resilient. Every where I look I drown in the literature and canned quotes about building skills or capabilities that enable you to thrive not just survive. If I have to hear one more person say to another that is experiencing significant hardship “it’s character building, it’s good for you”, I’m going to reach for my barf bag.
The research is out. Repeated trauma does not build strength! This very fact forces us to reshape the way we are helping our clients rise out from the wreckage of traumatic events and experiences. We must be mindful of the messages we are sending, how we are helping our clients rewire their neural pathways towards a more fulfilled and joyous experience of life in all its facets.
Finally, some research that has significant implications for our facilitated group and work with teams. If you have two individuals who are at the same event but experience it differently, the person with the least traumatic experience will adopt the schema of the more traumatised person. As an example, what does this mean for the work we do around en masse lay offs or restructures to help survivors deal with their guilt about staying. This research hilights the significant risks associated with large group interventions focussed on “healing the wounded”.
To conclude, we live in a world where we cannot afford to be complacent about our future as a strong and cohesive society. As I sit and listen to the incredible contributions of people like Dr Galili and my recent work with the extraordinary leaders at our very own Department of Immigration and Border Protection I kneel in deep gratitude – every day I am privileged to bear witness to the fact that there truly are angels amongst us.