Reflections from President Blau: Our calling in response to terror

Our monthly blog feature from MSP President, Dr. Diane Blau, discussing what’s on her mind and in her heart regarding MSP and the field of professional psychology. 

President Diane BlauIt seems that news of another shooting with numerous injuries and multiple deaths constantly blares out at us. Whether by bomb, knife, or gun, there seems to be a new kind of warfare that pierces our daily awareness and pervades our existence. It is labeled terrorism and we don’t quite know what to think, what to do, or how to process what is happening-moreover what to tell our children.

Almost a daily occurrence, when we hear yet another terrorist attack has occurred, our heartbeats quicken and we instantly listen for location, number killed or wounded, and actually breathe a sigh of relief if it is far away, involved but a few, and perhaps is just a random event of contagion. Within the context of terrorism, we have become astute listeners, systematically teasing out details to acquire immediate data regarding our safety. We learned “safety first” as children and it continues to reverberate in our consciousness when danger is near.

It is not that frightening events did not exist in the past; we just did not know about them with the spectacle and swiftness that infuses our presence today.  We cannot escape from what is going anywhere in the world-it tracks us down on our watches, phones, radio and TV and i-type products wherever we happen to be.

Several pretend nothing is going on and continue with daily activities. Some are paralyzed by anxiety and fear.  Others feel enraged and search for avenues of action- speaking out, fighting back, demanding retaliation.

Depending on the nature of the attack, most yearn for details to make some sense of the event, to sort it out, to process and come to some kind of terms with it within their own psychological framework. Talking about it with others becomes essential. We gain support, increase our understanding, discover personal meaning, and often rededicate ourselves to confront anew a particular injustice.

In my view, here lies the most profound and resilient outcome.  Gaining information and seeking understanding. Searching for and discovering meaning. Dedication or rededication to helping or healing. Commitment, Constancy, Caring, Compassion.

All not easy in the face of ill will and destruction.

But, especially as psychologists, when we want to turn away, this is when we are most called upon to turn toward, when our services, skills, abilities and deeply human qualities are most needed. We need to create a sacred space and hold the hope for those who need it the most.