The human spirit is incredibly resilient — we human beings have an inborn impulse for health. This is the third and last part of this series on how we, as individuals and as a community, can better withstand traumatic crises with resilience.
Two weeks ago, we reviewed the workings of the local Crisis Response Team and how it gets immediately to schools in order to dissolve the painful link between the memory and emotions of trauma for our children, to serve our children selflessly, to deal only with facts and to recognize and accept without judgment that peoples’ emotions range widely.
Last week, we reviewed the nature of traumas and learned that the toughest traumas are the ones that leave us and our loved ones feeling betrayed and very vulnerable. We learned about memories of traumas and the emotions that accompany them and that it is possible to neutralize the resulting sadness, anxiety, stress and fear from the memory itself so that we are less vulnerable, less depressed and do not feel powerless.
We assume our role of “being there” for our significant others and the community when trauma and circumstances wear down our resilience and spirits. The two threads of the previous columns provide the foundation for this concept of “being there.”
Steeped in the lessons we learned from the CRT, we intentionally observe and listen to what is going on around us. When family members, friends or colleagues seem withdrawn or angry or overwhelmed after a traumatic event, we ought to inquire, "How are you doing?" We can ask about how they are coping. Offering to be available to them may be more critical than pushing them to open up. Trauma victims need to regain a sense of control of their lives, and part of that control is to talk about things in their own way and in their own time.
If symptoms such as anxiety or anger or flashbacks, insomnia or hyper-vigilance persist, we ought to suggest that the person seek help from a professional counselor or spiritual adviser.
At this point, if we are at a loss to recommend a particular counselor or adviser, reaching out to Advocates Building Peaceful Communities, Mind Spring Health (formerly Steamboat Mental Health) or Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide makes a lot of sense and can make a difference.
We need to be firm but respectful. It is a difficult thing to be concerned and not too intrusive, but as friends and colleagues and loved ones, we ought to be doing everything we can to help. Perhaps the best advice for someone who wants to help a victim of trauma is the most ancient and revered, the Golden Rule, which encourages us to treat the other person the way you yourself would want to be treated were you in their situation.
A resilient community
As a community, the people of Steamboat Springs embrace challenges and learn skills to reach our goals. We like to grow, to get better at something, to improve in some way. We believe in developing our abilities through dedicated hard work. When we experience setbacks, we dust ourselves off and get back to the task at hand. This is the culture we have created and continue to strengthen. This is the stuff of resilience.
Virtually every psychological source we know places great emphasis on the quality of connections and relationships within a community as a necessary precondition for resilience. Accepting support from those who care about us and will listen to us strengthens our resilience. Being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations or affinity networks connects us to others. Through those connections, we develop relationships necessary for the social support we offer others. Being there, we help others reclaim hope as they proceed on their journey. Being there may even transform us and others.
This column is written in consultation with the boards and staff of Advocates Building Peaceful Communities, Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide and Steamboat Mental Health as well as other social workers, clinical psychologists, therapists, religious leaders and residents of Routt County.