Flashmob in social networks # YaNeBoyusSkazat raised a lot of different painful topics. One of them – how to keep themselves and their dignity after the experienced severe trauma. Here is the text of the lecture the Alfred Langley, famous Austrian psychotherapist, representative of existential analysis, which he read in the last year in Moscow and which has once again become a topical today. Topic of the lecture – “Psychic trauma. Maintain dignity in suffering. ”

the Alfred LangleyThe theme of today’s lecture – injury. We are talking about that part of the human reality, which is very painful. Our life is to be happy, we can experience love, joy and pleasure. But we can also experience depression, anxiety, addiction, as well as a strong, great pain.

By way of introduction, I will say a few words about the realities of human life. Then we will take a phenomenological analysis of the injury, and consider what the actual injury is correlated injury and dignity, and why, to cope with the trauma, meaning needs.

Let’s start with a look at our everyday reality. Trauma – a Greek word meaning damage, injury. And it happens almost every day – in the details, but also in the important things. When this happens, we tsepeneya. When we suddenly wounded – it’s like a concussion. And all at once questioned.

It may be a relationship in which we have experienced trauma, even if there were only wounded caustic remark a friend or partner, or the fact that we are not taken seriously, ridiculed, betrayed. Or it could be the work when we are treated unfairly, when there is an abuse of power, harassment, dismissal. It may be a relationship in the family, when we feel that we have enough love. Some people have a strained relationship with his parents, and they can, for example, to disinherit. It may happen emotional abuse, sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage-taking, beatings. The worst form of trauma that can happen to a man – this is a war. Every war is traumatic and causes large numbers of people suffer.

Trauma can cause not only other people, but also the events taking place at the will of fate: an earthquake, a tsunami, or a plane crash. This can happen in your personal life when I was diagnosed with “cancer”, or there is an accident. All these experiences that we have hurt. Injury produces horror and shock.


What hurts us in a serious injury? Our fundamental beliefs about how the world works, how life goes. When we are injured, we say: I could not imagine living like that. I do not know if I can continue to live life in such circumstances. We live as if we were abandoned in life. We are exposed, vulnerable, experiencing yourself vulnerable. We are experiencing things that are impossible to understand, which is absurd, meaningless. And the question arises: how can I overcome this? How can I continue to live? how can I be a man? When we are so incapacitates fate when life causes us so much pain when we are wounded, and all the pain, all of us shaken to its foundations, we can be ourselves and stay in touch with them? Keep feeling and stay in a relationship? How can we follow his life-line? These issues are the subject of our today’s lecture.


Let’s see what the injury, which is why it is happening, and that it is damaged. We can start with the everyday knowledge of the injury: we all had physical damage, we could get a bruise, contusion, fracture. But what is the damage? This forced the destruction of the whole.

For example, what happens if I cut myself with a knife when cutting the bread? The knife penetrated with a certain force, the energy in my own border, in my finger. My boundary in this case – it is my skin. And the knife severs something whole. My skin – a solid surface, and it is damaged. This comes from the fact that my skin is not strong enough to counteract the force of the knife.

We call the force to break through the border and overcome the natural resistance, violent by definition. Therefore, any damage, in any pain there is an element of violence, at least subjectively perceived. It is not necessarily such an objective. For example, if I’m depressed or weak, I do not need so much, and I feel myself injured.


What are the consequences of the injury? The two major consequences: firstly, our actions are limited. For example, if we break a bone, we can no longer walk, or if we have too much blood flows, we can not continue to cook. Secondly, lost his own: speaking at a physiological level, my own – my blood that I lose. After the damage I lose something that is my own. Finally, comes the pain.

Pain – a signal the command center in man signal to the brain. She comes to the fore in the mind absorbs the attention, bothering us, prevent us to continue our regular work, it requires us something. We hurt. It provides information that something is not good works in the body or in the psyche.

In pain, of course, can be of different quality. It can be acute, pulling, light, etc. It creates a person feel as if he were the victim. Being a victim – is to be drawn. Being naked – it is a fundamental characteristic of existence as a whole. Being in this world means that I am naked, I’m in front of another, alien, is in danger. And I feel it is concentrated, compressed into a trauma situation. And, of course, when I feel like a victim, it makes me rejection – because we need protection. Protection – this is why we need the pain. Pain says: do something, protect yourself, try to eliminate the cause. Occupy the position in relation to the situation, resist the situation. Do it at first – it’s very important and urgent. Try to identify what is causing the pain. Understand what is going to be able to eliminate the cause of the pain. If we do this, it gives us a way by which you can prevent subsequent pain.

There is a parallel between the physical injuries and psychological pain. On the psychological level, we have the same structure that we observed in the physical. We are also faced here with the destruction of the integrity of their own threat and with reduced functionality. I would like to talk about this in more detail in the example of a person who was in my care.


This woman, Elsa, was wounded on several levels. It hurt that hurts all of us – the rejection by a loved one. When we need when we are left alone or when we devalue publicly ridiculed when encroach on our honor – this rejection.

Elsa was 45 years old and for 20 years has suffered from depressive moods. She came out of the depression, which intensified in the last two years. She felt so weak and depressed that I could not move, and she had the work transferred to other family members. Her main feeling during these twenty years had the feeling, “I’m not worth anything.”

Elsa doubt that others, especially her family, it is really like. She was so suspicious of it, that was sensitive to even small things that happened in her family. For example, when her children (her were three of them) were in the evening somewhere without telling her about where to go, she felt anxious, and kept asking them, where are you going? And this is evident on the nerves of the family. Children feel cramped, and reacted sharply, which, in turn, strengthened her doubts, and she was more and more concerned with children’s issues. Can you imagine how the children in puberty can respond to this. But it is very much needed in this, because she has a hidden alarm.

We have found that anxiety. She did not realize it. She just felt uncomfortable when the children leave. But then we found that this anxiety is very accurately related to its main senses. “I’m not valuable for their children, so that they do not even tell me where to go.” When eventually we together have raised this concern in an interview, she had just enough heavy physical reaction. She suddenly felt a lump in his throat and could not breathe deeply. Even in the therapy session, while, of course, she knows the feeling and at home. We looked a little bit more to this concern, it seemed like. And then she said: “When children do not tell me where they are going, I have a feeling that my love is not enough.” And when she uttered this sentence, in addition to the lump in her throat she had a feeling of suffocation.

We have worked with this feeling of a lack of values. We have used, in this case a personal existential analysis. It was difficult to sustain the feeling that has been associated with anxiety. She said that she seemed torn soul, and she felt like a straitjacket. She would like to cry, but for a long time it had ceased to cry because tears have acted on the nerves of her husband. Moreover, she wanted to shout out a request for assistance. But she did not. And I never did. She did not have the courage to cry out for help. Because it is deeply convinced that if I do something just for yourself, then it does not matter. And because it does not matter to others, it does not matter to me.


Here we are dealing with a strong damage, great pain. And it is important to take a closer look at the specific experiences, experiences that led to this feeling. Where does the feeling of lack of self-worth? Elsa told the story of his life. Her family was normal to deprive her of what she owned. For example, as a child she was the perfect handbag, and she painfully recalls how the handbag she took and gave his cousin to a common picture looked better sister. A trifle, but for a child it can be very painful Can you imagine how the children in puberty can respond to this – especially when it is only one of hundreds of examples. Thus, she always felt that she was not like that it is not as valuable to the family, other children – her brother or cousin. And she completed the conversation, saying, “Everything comes from me, it was bad.” I have always been the worst in comparison with his brother.

We see human life here, who suffers from depreciation, rejection, injustice. They brought her to the alienation, the fact that it lost contact with him. When she was telling the truth, her honesty blasphemed. The whole village is bad responded about it. She had to fight for her husband. She sadly said: “I’ve always had to work hard to get what I got. I always had to open the way for himself and his. I see that I could never be what she wanted to be, even when I was a kid. ”

She was lucky with her father. He was the one who was proud of her and who truly loved. It is much balanced and stabilized in its development. Otherwise, it has evolved to a much more severe pathology – in fact, my father defended her from personality disorder. But the rest of the family and important people, she received only criticism and rejection – even for things that she did not commit. That is, it was full of self-doubt. She took all the negative assessment: you do not like it, you do not belong to us, you have no rights, you are initially worse. And so she had to prove that she has at least some value, and it required a lot of effort. When we talked about it, she again felt a lump in his throat. This time it was even more and gave his shoulders, she was hurt.

Elsa said that before she felt the rage, because I could not stand it. And now it was only a sadness, a feeling that she is paralyzed, is stamped out of a rut.

Her mother once drove her out of the house. In the village about her spread scandals and called a prostitute, and no one stood up for her not even her husband. This was the world in which she grew up. Elsa was incredibly lonely and suffered for many years. Since that time, it was a message inside it: I’m bad, I’m cheap, I can not love, I do not like.

This injury is characterized her whole life. Her experience over the years. And now she is finally able to cry for the first time about this. For the first time she was able to talk openly about how disappointed and betrayed she felt. She was able to cry that she was not a good mother. She began to understand why she does not feel its value. But she could not be alone, because her life was so destroyed. It has still difficulty in order to remain one.

Such clarification myself, look at how many wounds she had – a recognition and evaluation of their suffering in the end made her strong enough to ensure that within a year of psychotherapy, it was able to overcome his depression and his fears. This is an example of a man who for many years suffered from pain with the consequences in the form of fear and depression – and thank God that her depression at some point became so severe that she could not continue to live. And so she had to look into the face of this depression, resist it.


Pain – is a signal Come and see what’s wrong. Each trauma goes hand in hand with a sense of dazed, taken by surprise, terror. The victims of violence raises the question: what do I have value, if that happened to me if the violence perpetrated on me? The same issue can occur in the one betrayed. In the suffering that fate sends us – in the case of accidents, in tragic diagnoses, we ask ourselves the same question. What does it mean? What did I do wrong, do I deserve this?

Each trauma – a blow, a shock. This is something that caught us by surprise, suddenly happens. When something unexpected, which means that it does not fit into our picture of reality. Any injury means that there is a destruction of value, that is of value to us. Each injury raises questions about the future. How can life go on? What will happen? And each injury brings with it a soul-searching.

The existential analysis of the ego associated with the four dimensions – the world, life, and a future. When there is an injury, when the wave engulfing us, the consequences are shaky relationship with him. All four dimensions are weakened, but the understanding of who I am, what I value, if I can be myself – especially strongly attenuated.

The structure of existence is bursting at the seams. And the power to deal with what is causing the pain, temporarily extinguished. We see that in the middle of the process of overcoming the trauma is the ego, that is me. I need to see and recognize the cause and reason to confront my pain. But when my ability to weaken, I do not have the strength to do this, then I feel like a victim and become passive. And then I need the help of others. In the physical world we can sometimes just be ill: we were lying in bed with flu and a temperature of 39 – and then we need the help of others.


Let’s now look at the worst type of injury. Trauma in pure form, in the strict sense – is an unexpected encounter with death or serious injury. Even necessarily that I’m injured, I can just see someone who is injured, with whom treated unfairly, who is close to death. This causes a strong subjective fear response, fear, helplessness, shock. Over half of all people experience a reaction at least once in their lifetime. And at least 10 percent of people experiencing post-traumatic disorder: a flashback, repeats, voltages, with avoidant behavior, with increased irritability, sensitivity.

Serious injury destroys all of these four dimensions, which we discussed earlier. When we experience a strong shock, impact, fundamental trust disappears, life loses its value, the person ceases to be himself, the person feels worn. Trauma affects the deepest layers of existence. All four fundamental existence are unstable, especially a basic trust in the world. For example, when people experience an earthquake, or save them from the avalanche, or they are struggling with a flood or a tsunami, they seemed to lose their anchor, lose attachment. Nothing more holds, does not support. There is no trust.


What makes this injury and hardly? This is its inevitability and lack of understanding. We are faced with a reality that is greater than us and in which we are forced to live, where we feel like a ball of fate, with which it plays. There is no order, the structure on which I can rely. There is only pure coincidence, destructive arbitrariness, tyranny, over which I have no meaningful control. All our ideas about the world, the reality destroyed so tough, ruthless event.

Experiencing such engulfed the situation means that we are going through something that we do not even include the possibility. We think that we have tamed our world, we believe that we have built a culture and civilization, by which we can ensure the safety of yourself in this world, but all of these, our picture of the world are inconsistent with reality, are destroyed. We feel like children playing in the sandbox as if someone destroyed our castle. The trauma of this magnitude – for example, deportation to a concentration camp.


One person who really suffered in the camp and who wrote about this – Viktor Frankl. He spent 2.5 years in the camp, and lost his entire family. This trauma of epic proportions. He repeatedly escaped death only narrowly. He is constantly faced with the arbitrary depreciation and SS. But Frankl did not break under the pressure of this experience. We can even say that he even grew through it. However, there were also areas where the injury occurred as a result of damage that can not be repaired, which persisted throughout his life. There were scars, but there were wounds that remain: loss, questions of guilt, and even when he was already over 80, he still sometimes had nightmares. When we talked about it sometimes happened that he began to cry. Nevertheless, he is a man who truly overcame the trauma.

Let’s see how he describes his own injury. In his book on the experience of life in a concentration camp “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Frankl describes horror upon arrival at the concentration camp. He said that almost all the prisoners felt this same way, all in the eyes of the fear, the horror. What they saw was incredible. They were shocked by the unfolding struggle of all against all, the loss of human dignity, the lack of prospects, future hopelessness.

What happened? After the first shock of the prisoners, who felt lost, paralyzed, very gradually returned awareness. It comes the realization that here they will have to draw a line of his life. This shock divides life into before and after. The consequences of this – endless, limitless apathy, inner dullness, growing indifference, progressive mental dying. Normal movement of feelings ended. There was only one feeling – a terrible pain. The pain of unfair treatment, the pain of tyranny and humiliation by the SS guards.

The second consequence – associated with this apathy withdrawal itself of life, we call it primitivization. People became very primitive. All other interests, except primary disappeared. The only value was survival, all other devalued. Everyone thought only about food, warmth and sleep. It was only the interests of the people over the days and months. Some people say that it is very human: food first, then morality. And Frankl showed that it was for some people so, but not always and not for everyone.

The third element was the loss of sense of self. Frankl wrote, we did not feel people personalities. No sense of freedom was not. Everyone was just part of a huge chaos. And being there was going down to the simple life in the herd.

Fourth – is the loss of present and future. The presence was only momentary. What it is now – it’s not the real reality. True, human reality to them remained in the past. This led people to retreat to surrender. They had no more future. And this meant that more than anything it makes no sense.

All injuries can be observed similar reactions. People after the situation of violence, such as sexual, after taking hostage experience undermining the fundamental concepts of reality. Severe trauma destroys first of all the first fundamental motivation. If I experienced severe trauma, which means that I can no longer trust anything. To cope with the trauma, overcome it, it requires special treatment.

This therapy focuses on the experience of protection and restoration of the vital pillars. But this requires very accurate action. We often can not even imagine how many people need after a trauma, to regain at least a modicum of trust. We need a lot of time and experience.


Every injury, all suffering goes hand in hand with the question of the meaning. The question of the meaning – it is a very human question. Injuries and wounds are meaningless in our life. What is the meaning of this, when we are faced with an accident, violence, with murder? To say that we know what at this point, as we understand it would be an ontological contradiction. Perhaps we can allow to believe that it is in the hands of the Lord. Or we may have about this some philosophical thoughts. But in the end it is all very private, personal options of dealing with this issue. In society, it belongs to the realm of philosophy and religion. These ontological questions of meaning are not in the coverage area of psychology. Despite this, psychotherapy rather strongly influences the structure, helps to cope with the situation.

Frankl in speech therapy and in their personal lives saying that the question of the sense that we have to make an existential leap. Such a situation can become meaningful through our own activities. We do not know why we have to suffer from injury or pain. This is a coincidence or fate? Why did this happen? Why me? I dont know. But why did this happen? What can I do in this difficult situation? What this situation requires me to do? It is an existential question. Is it possible to do this at least something good? Perhaps if I somehow grow up in this situation, to buy something? To come to a deeper life, become more mature? And even if the injury can have an existential, personal meaning.

But when there is no answer to the question, why do I have to suffer, it makes particularly intense trauma. And then injury can freely enter into me. Because if I do not have the answer, I can not oppose what is happening with me. Injury dehumanizing, robs us dignity through three aspects: firstly, we suffer from something that is meaningless in itself, and it humbles us. Secondly, it destroys the integrity of its own, breaks our borders, ignoring us – and this leads to a loss of self and alienation. We are again experiencing the loss of dignity, the human loss. And an injury that occurs through wound through violence over others, leading to humiliation.


We struggle for meaning and dignity, not only when we are injured, but the second time when we are injured, that is, identify with traumatized people. And this can lead to suicide attempts. Think of the black widow of Al-Qaeda warriors. In many parts of the world we see people blow themselves up and kill others. American psychologists have investigated this, and through the understanding of trauma we can give at least some explanation of such killings.

Most of these suitsidentov not injured themselves. Example: young Palestinians aged 18 years watching a movie in which the Israelis abused Palestinians. At this age, young people are particularly susceptible to injustice and to identify themselves with these victims. And through their mirror neurons receive similar feelings as if they were the victims. And then they try to take revenge and punish, and restore fairness. Try rapists cause the same pain, which caused them. This is the way in which it unbearable suffering to the injured people can be experienced – make others suffer as well. In the distorted form it occurs in narcissistic pathology. Such people have even pleasure at the sight of the suffering of another.


And here the question arises: how can we preserve the dignity, using means other than this kind of suicide or harm to others? Other means than revenge? We can come to a personal dealings with reality. The existential philosophy it is basic.

You can take two authors who in some way opposed to one another – Camus and Frankl. Camus, in his book of Sisyphus, says that we need to confront the absurd. Do not allow yourself to become a victim, but to strengthen their freedom and to bring it into what we need to do, deliberately to take his suffering, accepting the challenge of the gods. Frankl says about the same thing. He became famous by its motto “To say life ‘yes’, in spite of everything.” At this level, Camus and Frankl say similar things. But it is quite different, they talk about the source of this energy.

Camus – the Frenchman, and he says: it is born of pride to be a person of awareness of their dignity, which is part of our essence. We are free enough to challenge the gods.

Frankl – Austrian, and he says that there must be something more mundane. That helped him to overcome suffering, it made sense. Meeting with other people, the experience of values, and more globally – relationship to God.


Central to overcoming the trauma is internal dialogue. The injury is very important to keep the inner life. Give happen in the world of what is happening, but do not give up in his inner life, in his dialogue, in their intimacy. This opens up several possibilities for breaking this terrible reality.

First, thanks to this internal dialogue people in the camp were able to maintain the connection with life and values. It was the little things that help prisoners: watching the sunrise or sunset, clouds, color and shape. Sometimes, maybe somewhere in the camp I grew a little flower. Or they looked at the mountain. It became a source of inner psychic power. It’s hard to believe – that such small things can nourish our soul. We usually think of something more global. But when we are so bad, even that – see a small flower or the sun – can give proof that beauty still exists in this world. Prisoners could push each other in the side with the words: “How beautiful the world can be!” Sometimes, at times, they can experience this power, which is inseparable from life. And they felt that in a global sense to live so valuable that in spite of all the circumstances, life has some value.

Also, one more thing, which is contrary to everything going on horror gave strength – it is a good relationship. They fed them unconditional thirst to live and overcome. For Frankl was a desire to see his wife and family again.

Secondly, this inner dialogue helps create distance from the outside world. Frankl, for example, periodically thought about what he will write down their experiences and publish a book – and he began to formulate what he is going through. And it created a distance which he defended.

The third tool – it’s rebuilding life in the way of freedom. The objective was to create with the help of the remaining freedom meaningful lifestyle. We prisoners were practically no external freedom, but were internal capabilities. No power, no force in the world can not take away from us the internal capacity. Freedom relations, facilities, some, even minimal solutions. As Frankl writes in his book, a man in a concentration camp can be picked up all but one – the ultimate, fundamental human freedom in taking a position in relation to the specific conditions in any way. And these opportunities are.

How does it look? Accommodation freedom was the solution. It is expressed, for example, to tell a neighbor, “Good morning,” to look him in the eye. It requires very minimal activity, but it gave the feel that I still have some freedom. Think about the people who are confined to bed, being paralyzed. The situation is further compressed to a minimum of freedom, but it is important to live this minimum freedom, and to be quite modest, humble, to use it. Despite the fact that this is a small decision, and the person can not affect something big, it gives me the opportunity to experience that I am still a person, and I have the freedom and thus – dignity. Frankl said that it was fundamental for him to not become a victim of circumstances, so as not to feel the plaything of fate, object.

And finally, they helped existential meaning. The realization that what we expect from life – is not as important as what life expects from us. We do not know why we have to pass through it, but it is not so important. What is important – that we can take the hard, inexplicable situation and treat it as a question addressed to us. What life awaits me when I face loss, divorce, with suffering? Can I do something valuable in this situation? This still have the freedom we can make choices and take decisions. How will I apply my freedom? This is human dignity.

If we live it in a way we can make a contribution even in an ontological sense and come closer to the meaning of the whole. Frankl says, “What we were looking for – a global meaning of life, which also covers death and who thus represent not only the meaning of life, but also the meaning of suffering, and dying. It is for this meaning we fought, using the freedom, experiencing the value of life in the small. Optionally to be a hero. All can be very modest, but real, true and rooted in our being. ”

Frankl survived. This gave him the strength to endure it all. When he returned home, it was again a very strange experience. The experiences that were with him, characteristic of people who have experienced trauma. He was released, he was at home, but he no longer knew how to enjoy something like having fun. He had to re-learn how to be happy. And it took time and patience.

Finally, he was faced with yet another discovery: he increasingly wondered how a man could survive it all and overcome. Even for him it was strange. And this is a new gradually adjusting to the new situation was accompanied by a new feeling, which was a great support to him. This – the last sentence in his book: “After all I’ve been through, I no longer need to be afraid of anything in the world – except my God.”

I hope that this material will help us a little bit better understanding of not only what could happen to us, but also what might overcome trauma. Perhaps you will take with him only the two little experience: the first – to be conscious enough to take a small value, for example, to see the sunrise and watch the little flower. These values are always there if we are not too proud and do not reject them. And the second – to use our freedom even in a difficult situation – for example, say “good morning” beloved, look him in the eye.

Thank you for attention.