One characteristic of human societies
is that people come together and seek closeness with others in the face of
traumatic experiences. “Emotional attachment is probably the primary protection
against feelings of helplessness and meaninglessness; it is essential for
biological survival in children, and without it, existential meaning is
unthinkable in adults”.
The context for recovery from the
legacies of bereavement, natural disaster, accidents, war trauma, or interpersonal
violence and abuse is widely accepted to be the provision and/or restoration of
social support to help people with the integration of difficult experiences.
External validation of the reality of the traumatic event, such as communal
mourning ceremonies, disaster relief actions, or the provision of community
services are vital aspects of peoples’ ability to recovery from traumatic
experiences and to prevent or treat post traumatic stress symptomatology.
If the mobilisation of external
recognition and support is not possible, for example in cases of isolation or intra-familial
abuse that relies heavily on secrecy, peoples’ feelings of helplessness may
persist and continue to intrude into their consciousness. As a result, victims
may experience persisting symptoms of post-traumatic stress. “Because victims
cannot make clear-cut statements that convey the reality of what happened to
them, traumatic memories start leading a life of their own in form of
disturbing physical or psychological symptoms and people become patients” (Kolk
& McFarlane, Traumatic Stress, p. 27).