By Professor William Cote, Professor Roger Simpson, William Cote, Roger Simpson
-- Columbia Journalism overview
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Extra info for Covering Violence
L. ” Survivors’ understandable anger at their attackers often quickly turns into blaming themselves. Why didn’t I see it coming? Why didn’t I defend myself better? Why didn’t I stop them somehow? How could I let such a thing happen to me (or to my partner or child)? Such reactions may seem reasonable, but if they are carried too far, long, and deeply, they can eat into a person and cause serious depression. Another powerful emotion is anger. Again, we easily understand why the victim would be angry, although often the victim’s parent or spouse is most angry and after revenge.
Avoidance is a symptom of PTSD, although therapists caution that it may not continue for so long that a formal diagnosis of PTSD is warranted. Most survivors of trauma will avoid reminders and change their usual patterns for a while to prevent unpleasant recollections from surfacing. ” Ex-hostages from a notorious train hijacking in The Netherlands avoided all trains for weeks, Ochberg says. Some only avoided the particular train on which they were hijacked. Others took that train but changed to a bus for the few miles near the site of the trauma.
Then the emotional system itself may be torn apart or fragmented. When the system fails us, we often find respite in such defensive measures as use of drugs or alcohol, surrender of choices to another person, distractions, or dissociation. Dissociation is a mechanism of the brain that we use regularly in everyday circumstances, for example, to plan a project with one part of the brain while another enables us to steer a car through perilous traffic. The mechanism also comes into play in highly stressful situations, enabling us to focus alertly on things going on around us, although we seem not to feel the usual emotional reactions.