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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thursday's Psychology Trivia: Oz, Tornadoes & Regaining Control

Thought for the Day:  As the people in Oklahoma begin to cope with the the aftermath of the tornado, & I reviewed the literature on recovery, I was reminded of the fact that The Wizard of Oz begins with a tornado in Kansas. Dorothy is thrown into a foreign world filled with new dangers. She simply wants to get home to her family & the life before the storm. The characters she meets along the away are searching for things they may never have had. The story can be seen as a metaphor for recovery from traumatic events. They are all on a psychological journey as Dorothy, the Tin Man, Scarecrow & the Lion reclaim their sense of control in a world filled with dangers. Dorothy yearns for home & family; the Tin Man searching for a heart, the scarecrow, for a brain & the lion, to become brave. On Tuesday's Psychological Trivia I asked the question:

True or False: The belief in one’s capability to exercise some measure of control over traumatic adversity is central to recovery from trauma.

The answer is a very strong true! Just as the characters in The Wizard of Oz were searching for the strength to overcome adversity, survivors of all traumatic events must rediscover their ability to cope with life's challenges. Charles C. Benight (University of Colorado) & Albert Bandura (Department of Psychology, Stanford University) study reported findings from diverse studies of traumatization. They found the role of perceived coping self-efficacy to be central to enhancing recovery from all kinds of traumatic experiences. What is interesting about this finding is that it held true for many different kinds of trauma when variables like severity of the trauma, loss of loved ones, fear of dying were held constant.

Natural disasters literally turn people's lives upside down. Trauma steals one's a sense of security. Given the overwhelmingly consistent finding of the importance of a rebuilding a sense of self efficacy, family, friends, volunteers & therapists need to focus on helping trauma survivors take back  control of their lives.

Therefore, it is important to support them so they can proactively improve their sense of well-being. It is only natural for caregivers & volunteers to want to do things for survivors. However, as soon as possible, it is important to shift their role. Since regaining a sense of self efficacy is pivotal to long term recovery, as soon a possible the caregivers' role should change. Survivors should be helped to find ways to see that they are capable of rebuilding their lives, instead of passively waiting for someone else to help them. The more they are able to take charge of their lives, the less powerless & vulnerable they will feel. In Coping with Traumatic Stress Emotional Recovery After a Disaster, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D give additional tips to help survivors cope & begin to regain a sense of control. They suggest that survivors be encouraged to: 1) Reestablish a routine, 2) Challenge their sense of helplessness, & 3) reclaim your sense of power is by helping others, in addition to taking care of their emotional health.

Ironically, this is not the 1st time I have referred to imagery from The Wizard of Oz. I wrote  Over the Rainbow Deep in the Heart of Texas  & Part II: Over the Rainbow in the Winds of Texas in April of 2012. I hope you will join me tomorrow for Friday's Fabulous Finds & over the weekend for Saturday's Songs for the Soul & Sunday's Comic Strips.

 *Photos from

Top left: 'The Wizard of Oz (1939)' http-/

Top right: 'The Wizard of Oz (1939)' http-/

Bottom left: 'Over the Rainbow' http-/

Bottom right: 'The Wizard of Oz (1939)'http-/

Middle: 'Oz' http-/


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