Survivor Psychology: Why do some people
survive while others perish during
disasters and other traumatic
adversities?
Presented by
Dr. Robert Crawford, EdD, MS, LPC
Nationally Certified Counselor
Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress & Diplomate of
the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress
Connections Counseling, LLC
38 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096
(856) 845-4447 or E-mail at : [email protected]
www.connectionsnj.com
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Understanding Trauma
Trauma defined is the experiencing, witnessing, or
confrontation of an event(s) that involvled
actual or threatened death, or serious injury to
the physical integrity of self or others wherin
the person’s response involved helplessness,
horror or FEAR.
Trauma manifests in Four domains;
Physical reactions/Mental reactions/Emotional
reactions/ Behavioral reactions
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Understanding Trauma
When our survival is threatened, when disaster strikes or
is impending, our typical response is fear…….and how
we respond to our fears determines who among us
survives…..and if we survive who develops a trauma
response as opposed to who overcomes and
emotionally survives the experience.
It is our understanding of our Fear response that is
the key variable in our Survival.
Research across the fields related to Survival
Psychology clearly assert there are only two
approaches to successfully reduce the Fearresponse…Realistic
Rehearsal (Training) & Faith!
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Understanding Trauma
Our survival response is a complex behavioral,
bio-neurological response that is instinctual,
instantaneous, and mostly unconscious……
We see it as the fight/flight/freeze response
Leach’s Theory of 10-80-10 (Sherwood,2009)
Fear is primitive and it short-circuits our higher
level brain functioning (Ripley, 2009)…..so when
fear is present our emotions overide our
reasoning and cognitive skills…..fear kills!
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Understanding Trauma
During a Fear reaction………
1. The amygdala is triggered and neural networks and
chemical compounds are activated and released!
Adrenalin (epinephrine) is released from the adrenal
glands. Epinephrine and norepinephrine ( called
catecholamines) released excites the sympathetic
nervous system!
2. The hippocampus is attacked by the stress-released
cortisol which impedes the working of the pre-frontal
cortex...this is where memory, attention, perception is
all processed..so our higher functioning brain crashes!
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Understanding Trauma
Our brains are structured into three main parts:
1. the cortex (the outer surface, where higher thinking
skills arise; includes the frontal cortex, the most recently
evolved portion of the brain)
2. the limbic system (the center of the brain, where
emotions evolve)
3. the brain stem (the reptilian brain that controls basic
survival functions)
• trauma actually changes the structure and function of
the brain, at the point where the frontal cortex, the
emotional brain and the survival brain converge.
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
tion
Special Considerations for Children/Teens
after a traumatic event.
• Traumatic life events are fairly common in childhood.
Research suggests that 14 to 43% of children have
experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime.
• There is a wide range of responses to catastrophic
events. Some children and teenagers experience
temporary worries and fears that get better quickly.
Others experience long-term problems such as fear,
depression, withdrawal, anger, haunting memories,
avoiding reminders of the event, regressive behavior
(acting younger than their actual age), worrying about
themselves and others dying or being hurt, and
irritability. Reactions can occur immediately
Cite: www. Istss.org
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Special Considerations for Children/Teens after a
traumatic event.
• Young children (age 5 and younger) may experience new fears such
as separation anxiety or fear of strangers or animals. They may act
younger or lose a skill they have already mastered (such as toilet
training).
• Elementary school-aged children (6 to 11) may get parts of the
traumatic experience confused or out of order when recalling the
memory. They may complain of body symptoms that have no
medical cause(e.g., stomach aches). They may stare into space or
seem “spacey,” or startle easily.
• Adolescents (12 to 18) may experience visual, auditory, or bodily
flashbacks of the events, have unwanted distressing thoughts or
images of the events, demonstrate impulsive and aggressive
behaviors, or use alcohol or drugs to try to feel better. They may feel
depressed or have suicidal thoughts.
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Response and Resiliency
Psychological Resiliency is defined as “effective coping
and adaptation although faced with loss, hardship, or
adversity” (Tugade & Fredrickson, 2004)
Psychological Resiliency is a mindset that is preestablished based on a Mental Triology of emotions,
cognitions, and motivations. (Gonzales, 2003, p 219)
Psychological Resiliency is the product of a worldview, personal characteristics and a way of positive
thinking, proactive training &planning, and faith in a
Higher Purpose to one’s life.
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Response and Resiliency
Individuals who are Psychological Resilient use the
following to respond & recover:
1) Positive coping strategies that include positive reappraisal with
positive meaning ( creating a NEW NARARTIVE )
2) They are self-confidence that they influence life events! This is key
for two critical points: Self-confident people secret less cortisol
when under stress AND they react faster in the moment…less
likely to succumb to F/F/F
3) They find meaning in their adversity tied to a Higher Purpose
4) A conviction that they can learn from both the negative &
positive experiences in both life’s turmoil and adversity
5) They don’t deny the danger in the crisis moment/see training info
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Response and Resiliency
Adversarial Growth defined as “the process of
struggling with adversity that changes may arise that
propel an individual to a higher level of functioning
than which existed prior to the event.” (Linley & Joseph,
2004, p.11.) OR Posttraumatic Growth
explained as the experience of growth emerging from
the struggle of life’s greatest difficulties across 5 life
domains; seeing new possibilities, changed
relationships, viewing self as both stronger yet more
vulnerable, greater appreciation for life, and changes in
one’s spiritual perspective. (Calhoun&Tedeschi, 2004)
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Special Considerations for Children/Teens after a
traumatic event.
 Children express the intense fear, helplessness, or
horror of trauma often as increasingly disorganized or
agitated behavior or social withdrawal
 Teens may emotionally disconnect and isolate or act out
 Infants/toddlers may have sleep disturbances,
personality changes, hyperarousal, trauma dreams
 For children and teens there is a sudden and dramatic change in
their worldview and self-perception
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Special Considerations for Children/Teens after a
traumatic event.
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)
7)
The Standard of Treatment is the FEMA Model
Psychological First Aide
Reach out to those in need and provide “comfort
care”….comfort and assurance
Provide Basic Needs and support problem-solving
Validate Survivor’s feelings and thoughts
Provide accurate and timely information
Connect people with their support systems
Provide education about normal stress responses
Reinforce strengths and positive coping skills
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Special Considerations for Children/Teens
after a traumatic event.
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Key Goals!
Secured and Reassured
Structured and Sheltered
Protective Boundaries with Attachment
Create a narrative of the “New Normal” with
new connections
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Special Considerations for Children/Teens
after a traumatic event.
Symptoms and behavioral characteristics of complex
Trauma in children and teens
1) Attachment issues
2) Biological manifestations
3) Affect-Emotional Regulation
4) Dissociation
5) Behavioral control
6) Cognitive processing
7) Self-concept
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Planning and Preparing !
P&P involves more than stockpiling food
and ammo! Remember PTSD strikes across
Four domains; physical/emotional/mental/
behavioral…….and spiritual.
 Based on multiple studies from the NCPTSD, the
Military Survival School at Fort Bragg, NC, the
USAF’s S.E.R.E and other sources the conclusion is
very clear: Our first response we have to danger or
threat is FEAR. Nothing matters more than
training and preparation to overcome fear!
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Planning and Preparing !
 “The more prepared you are, the more in control
you feel, and the less fear you will experience.”
(Ripley, 2009)
 Nothing matters more than “realistic rehearsal”
training or experience to overcome the Fear
Response……AND almost anyone can learn!
 The key is that everyone can manufacture selfconfidence thru training and experience.
 GOAL: Re-Condition a new Response Reflex by creating a
new auto re-write of the parasympathetic nervous system
controlling the sympathetic nervous system.
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Planning and Preparing !
 In a crisis situation the most effective method for reducing
the Fear Response….because it controls the hijacking of the
PNS by the SNS is referred to as “Combat Lamaze”, “Tactical
Breathing”, “Yoga Breathing” or more commonly “Box
Breathing”
 The procedure is simple…in/4-hold/4-out/4
 Breathing is one of the few bridges between the PNS and the
SNS of our Autonomic Nervous System…..”by consciously
slowing down the breath, we can de-escalate the primal fear
response that otherwise takes over.” (Ripley, 2009, p78)
 The other method is the practice of meditation.
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Planning and Preparing !
 Preparing also includes wrestling with the
emotional/mental dilemmas that will likely present:
 What are you willing to do to survive? Read One
Second After by Wm Forstchen (2009)
 What will your family/children be willing to do?
 Scenario: If your neighbors(your kid’s friends) come to
your door in need of your food, water and supplies will you
share? Will your face a family insurrection? Will you risk
armed confrontation with your neighbors?
 What is the purpose of your preparations? Physical and/or
moral survival?
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
MINDSET
“Disaster” comes from the Latin (dis)
which means away and (astrum) which
means “stars”, thus, “ill-stared”
or “ill-fated”.
“Survivor” comes from the Latin
supervivere which means (super)
“over or beyond” and (vivere) “to
live” or “superlivers”
Goal: create a Survivor’s Mindset
both for both PRIOR and POST a
traumatic event.
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
MINDSET
Mindset development includes a
personal review of 1.“happiness”
and the research of what is the
foundation of S.W.B., 2.Building of
the “Battlemind” and 3.review of
the “Busihido” code of the Samurai
The Post-Traumatic incident mindset
is addressed the S of Suffering and
Survivor Secrets.
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
MINDSET
 “We all live with the objective of being
happy. Our lives are all different yet all
the same.” Anne Frank
 Research clearly shows that Happiness is
never an end product but rather the result
of a pursuit or process.
 The text of the second section of the
Declaration of Independence reads:
We hold these Truths to be self-evident,
that all Men are created equal, that they
are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable Rights, that among these are
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
MINDSET
So what is “Happiness” and how can I
attain it?..let’s discuss the Myths!
 Beh-Shahar (Happier,2007) proposed it is
the combination of Pleasure and Meaning.
 Four Archetypes of Happiness include: Rat
Racer/Hedonist/Nihilist/Happiness
 Prager (Happiness is a serious problem,
1998) happiness is acquired via hard-work
and attaining wisdom…it is never a feeling!
 We acquire Happiness when 1. we believe our
lives have Personal Meaning and that 2.
Life itself has a Transcendent Meaning.
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
MINDSET
Building the “Battlemind”. Mandated
in Armed Services 2007, it is
designed to develop the soldier’s
inner strength to face fear and
adversity in combat with courage.
The key components are mental
toughness and self-confidence.
See:
http://www.behavioralhealth.army.mil/batt
lemind/BattlemindTrainingII.pdf
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
MINDSET
 The Samurai Bushido Code (Way of the
Warrior) demanded the warrior look
backward at the present from the moment
of one’s own death, as if, they were
already dead.
 The Fascinating Trend of Survivor’s is
when in the moment of crisis (the attack,
the plane or ship going down, the natural
disaster etc.) one of these three
questions were asked! How you can answer
at this moment these questions influences
your reaction if your possible or
impending death occurred RIGHT NOW!
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
MINDSET
So the Samurai Bushido Code (altered for the
purposes of promoting your survival)
forces one to “begin with end in mind”……
1) Do the people I leave behind know my true
love for them at this very moment?
2) Did my life have purpose and meaning?
3) At the moment of my death, do I have
peace with what or who awaits me on the
other side of this life?
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Survivor’s Secrets and Suffering
So what do the secrets of Survivor’s tell us?
According to Sherwood ( The Survivor’s Club, 2009)
1. In a crisis, Survivors think, plan and take action while
others are immobilized in fear. This is the result of
both “reflex and habit that you can cultivate through
practice and preparation.” (p.329)
2. One Bite at a Time. 3. The Illusion of Isolation
4. Don’t Waste a Breath 5. the Power of Purpose and
the influence of Psychoneuroimmunology!
 Take the TEST at www.SurvivorProfile.org
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Survivor’s Secrets and Suffering
• So what do the secrets of Survivor’s tell us?
Gonzales (Deep Survival, 2003)
1. Stay Calm
2. Perceive & Believe
3. Think/Analyze/Plan
4. Surrender
5. Believe You Will Succeed
6. Do Whatever is Necessary to Survive
7. Never Give Up!
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Survivor’s Secrets and Suffering
If happiness is the desire of life, then suffering is
the reality of life…..and survivors adapt,
embrace and learn from their experience of
reality.
“To live is to suffer” Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Man’s Search for Meaning (1946) by Victor Frankl
is the Survivor’s Manual to Life and Meaning
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
Survivor’s Secrets and Suffering
Man’s Search for Meaning (1946) by Victor Frankl
 “Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as
soon as we form a clear and precise pictiure of it”
(p.95)
 Quoting Nietzsche “He who has a why to live can bear
almost any how” (p.126)
 “We discover the meaning of life in three ways; 1. by
creating a work of doing a deed; 2. by experiencing
something or encountering someone; 3. by the attitude
we take toward unavoidable suffering.” (p. 133)
Dr.Crawford/April 2010 Survivor Psychology
Presentation
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