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 recover from traumatic experiences and to prevent or treat post traumatic stress symptoms.

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).

Often people are uncomfortable when they hear of another person's loss or traumatic experience. They might be unsure what action is appropriate to take, they might be paralised by their sense of helplessness, or they might be at loss for words.

While persons' who suffered interpersonal trauma (domestic violence, sexual abuse, physical abuse, assault) might need the skillful help of a trained professional, persons' who have been through a natural disaster, accident, or who lost a loved one, will benefit greatly for another person/friend just being there. Being there, putting an arm around their shoulder, making a hot cup of tea, offering some food, or just being willing to listen.

Author's Bio: 

Gudrun Frerichs, PhD is the director and founder of Psychological Resolutions Ltd. Visit her website for information about counselling, coaching, psychotherapy, and training courses for professional and personal development. You will find relationship solutions through advanced communication skills. Instead of learning "communication by numbers" you will be taken on a step by step journey to emotional intelligence (self-awreness, self-management, understanding others, and managing others).

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