Saturday, September 10, 2016

Almost everyone who has a few birthdays under their belt has experienced a crisis or distressing event in their lives. We have great successes, and happy events, and also pain at times. As a psychologist, I have helped clients process emergencies as they occur, and helped them find ways to seek comfort and weather grief.  Of interest is I also came to observe that clients sometimes suffer on the anniversaries of such events. Without awareness, they might report a kind of depressed state of mind had occurred for a few days, with no reason evident to them. Over the course of the session, or perhaps a week or two later, something would click. That was the week their father had died, or the very date they had experienced a serious injury. Our inner wounds heal, but come the anniversary, they fester a bit, consciously or unconsciously. They call for some attention. We acknowledge what has been lost, through thought and/or action, seek the comfort we need, and move on. The pain fades once again.

This same process can occur with communities as well, as a University of Texas psychologist and professor, Dr. Pennybaker, has written about. The whole village grows sober or anxious as the date of a past major hurricane or fire approaches. This kind of anxiety will gradually lessen as the years pass, but initially can be a true annual disturbance, with return of the fears and agitated state that arose with the event, and some of the defensive behaviors that resulted. Memorials, prayers, letters, newspaper articles, commemorative public parks and libraries, are ways we handle such situations as a whole. Ideally, we also take care not to stimulate overreaction.

Perhaps I write this now because of my own physical awareness of the approach of September 11th. I extend my sympathy for all of us who experienced losses on that date in 2001.

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