9/11 Still an Issue a Decade Later

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9/11 Still an Issue a Decade Later

Here is a blog I wrote last year. It still rings true and it deserves repeating. Thank you for taking the time to read it.

Carol Tosone is an associate professor of social work at NYU. Carol lived and worked through the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack and has become very interested in Second-Hand Shock. She shared in an interview that she is still “spooked” by the sound of airplanes since that tragic day.

Carol was curious if other social workers and mental health providers who treated 9/11 victims shared her experience of vicarious trauma, so she polled 500 helping professionals who worked in Midtown and Lower Manhattan during the attacks. She found that many of our heroes are still suffering. Her survey is an empirical testimony that many helping professionals share trauma with the people they are treating.

Tosone’s survey is being replicated in New Orleans among clinicians who counseled flood survivors. These clinical studies will help prepare social workers and other helping professionals who work in disasters and other traumatic situations to recognize and treat their own natural trauma responses. “We need to refortify clinicians,” said Tosone, who is also a member of the National Association of Social Workers.

Can you imagine that helping professionals and other caring witnesses are still suffering trauma responses a decade after the 9/11 tragedy? That certainly speaks to how insidious the effects of vicarious trauma can be! It also demonstrates a saddening lack of compassion and absence of resources for our heroes. Probably these heroes have been suffering with all types of unpleasant symptoms and they may have attributed these symptoms to other causes as a result of public apathy to their plight.

The symptoms of vicarious trauma or Second-Hand Shock run parallel with Post Traumatic Stress disorder and include:

  • negative emotions;
  • frequently feeling “on edge”;
  • existential upset that includes a negative world-view;
  • disruption in memory
  • intrusive imagery, including nightmares or recurring visualizations;
  • emotional numbing;
  • inability to tolerate strong emotions or hypersensitivity to emotionally charged content, such as seen in movies or television;
  • feeling anxious or worried for family members;
  • avoidance or “checking out” from the traumatic experience;
  • physical illnesses;
  • isolation and loss of ability to enjoy meaningful activities; and,
  • feelings of incompetence.

It is imperative for our heroes to be given the time and space to debrief and regroup after suffering Second-Hand Shock. The Rapid Advance Process is an effective technique that helps the helper to move out of the flight or fight reaction and back into their higher thinking which promotes a sense of inner peace and well-being.

I find it to be ironic that many helping professionals work so diligently to reduce the stigma around maintaining mental health, yet they may be falling prey to the same faulty thinking when it comes to their own welfare. It is long overdue for us to normalize the concept that helpers are negatively affected by listening to trauma content stories while they control their empathic responses. As we work together to raise public awareness, we build a safe environment for our heroes to seek the relief they so greatly deserve. I thank Carol Tosone for her work and her dedication to the helping professions.


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Divorce, Domestic Abuse and Brainwashing

Many divorcing people are trying to extricate themselves out of a bad marriage that may not have had any physical abuse, but they have suffered, sometimes for many years, as the target of verbal or emotional violence. Many times these emotionally abusive relationships did not become physically violent simply because the frightened spouse never “pushed the envelope” or habitually backed down in an attempt to manage the perpetrator’s rage. This type of co-dependent behavior culminates with the victim abdicating his/her own personal sense of power and identity. Eventually, they become putty in the hands of the abuser.

Then, adding insult to injury, how many times does the victim hear the annoying question, “Why do you stay?” or “Why do you keep going back?” Not only is the victim being abused by the perpetrator, she/he is then again treated callously and critically by those who are observing the struggle. So here is the reason why the victim remains in or keeps going back to a violent relationship, be it emotional and/or physical. Brainwashing, that’s why!

Women or men who stay entangled with aggressor partners do so because they have become brainwashed by the aggressor over time. The method of brainwashing in a verbally abusive domestic relationship is no different from the method of brainwashing used with POW’s, cults or other victims held hostage. I know I am dating myself right now, but the case of Patty Hearst transforming into a member of the band of thugs who kidnapped her was due to some very effective brainwashing.

There are five characteristics to brainwashing and you will probably see them in any abusive relationship.

  1. Omnipotence: The abuser behaves and speaks as though he/she has all the power and the target has none. The abusive partner usually controls the money, the victim’s free time, the victim’s circle of friends and just about anything that is considered to be empowering.
  2. Threats: these can be direct or indirect in nature. Remarks like, “I’ll make sure everyone knows what a whack-job you are.”; “I’ll make sure you never see the kids.”; “Just try to get away and you’ll be sorry.”
  3. Futility of the situation: this is programmed into the victim by repeatedly hearing remarks like, “You’ll never amount to anything.”; “You’ll never make it on your own.”; “You’re too stupid to figure it out.”;”You don’t have enough money to make it on your own.”; “No-one will want you.”
  4. Isolation: By controlling the time, resources and psyche of the victim; the victim becomes more confused and fuzzy about what is true and what is not. He/she begins to isolate and remain disconnected from important sources of support, such as family and friends.
  5. An Occasional crumb: This is the biggest hook into staying with a loser-abuser because the victim falls prey to the magical thinking that based on some tiny nicety, maybe the aggressor will finally change.

This type of repetitive verbal and emotional abuse breaks the spirit of its victim. Over time, the abused partner is locked into a dissociated state. Picture a boxer being overpowered by the opponent and using every bit of energy they have left to cover their face and avoid being pummeled. Once the spirit of a person is broken, their ability to reach their higher thinking is blocked. They become prisoners in their relationships because they can not think clearly enough to create a strategy or an exit plan.

Supporting any victim of brainwashing begins with debriefing and then reprogramming with positive “counter-propaganda” so that the abused begin to build faith back into their abilities and become encouraged to take back their power. Without this important first remedy, the exit plan will never be created or put into action.

The Rapid Advance Series of books will soon be launching Just Stop Picking Losers! If you or someone you know is struggling under the negative effects of relationship brainwashing, it is a must-read and a great resource for restoring faith in oneself.


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9/11 Second-Hand Shock Still an Issue a Decade Later.

Carol Tosone is an associate professor of social work at NYU. Carol lived and worked through the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack and has become very interested in Second-Hand Shock. She shared in an interview that she is still “spooked” by the sound of airplanes since that tragic day.

Carol was curious if other social workers and mental health providers who treated 9/11 victims shared her experience of vicarious trauma, so she polled 500 helping professionals who worked in Midtown and Lower Manhattan during the attacks. She found that many of our heroes are still suffering. Her survey is an empirical testimony that many helping professionals share trauma with the people they are treating.

Tosone’s survey is being replicated in New Orleans among clinicians who counseled flood survivors. These clinical studies will help prepare social workers and other helping professionals who work in disasters and other traumatic situations to recognize and treat their own natural trauma responses. “We need to refortify clinicians,” said Tosone, who is also a member of the National Association of Social Workers.

Can you imagine that helping professionals are still suffering trauma responses a decade after the 9/11 tragedy? That certainly speaks to how insidious the effects of vicarious trauma can be! It also demonstrates a saddening lack of compassion and absence of resources for our heroes. Probably these heroes have been suffering with all types of unpleasant symptoms and they may have attributed these symptoms to other causes as a result of public apathy to their plight.

The symptoms of vicarious trauma or Second-Hand Shock run parallel with Post Traumatic Stress disorder and include:

  • negative emotions;
  • frequently feeling “on edge”;
  • existential upset that includes a negative world-view;
  • disruption in memory
  • intrusive imagery, including nightmares or recurring visualizations;
  • emotional numbing;
  • inability to tolerate strong emotions or hypersensitivity to emotionally charged content, such as seen in movies or television;
  • feeling anxious or worried for family members;
  • avoidance or “checking out” from the traumatic experience;
  • physical illnesses;
  • isolation and loss of ability to enjoy meaningful activities; and,
  • feelings of incompetence.

It is imperative for our heroes to be given the time and space to debrief and regroup after suffering Second-Hand Shock. The Rapid Advance Process is an effective technique that helps the helper to move out of the flight or fight reaction and back into their higher thinking which promotes a sense of inner peace and well-being.

I find it to be ironic that many helping professionals work so diligently to reduce the stigma around maintaining mental health, yet they may be falling prey to the same faulty thinking when it comes to their own welfare. It is long overdue for us to normalize the concept that helpers are negatively affected by listening to trauma content stories while they control their empathic responses. As we work together to raise public awareness, we build a safe environment for our heroes to seek the relief they so greatly deserve. I thank Carol Tosone for her work and her dedication to the helping professions.