quarta-feira, fevereiro 23, 2011

Resistência e trauma

Seres humanos são frágeis, sim. No esquema geral das coisas, mais ainda. Entretanto, em nossa pequenez ante o resto do universo, podemos também ser muito mais resistentes do que nós mesmos acreditamos. É o que mostra o trecho diário do Delancey Place de hoje:

"Behavioral scientists have accumulated decades of data on both adults and children exposed to trauma. George A. Bonanno of Teachers College at Columbia University has devoted his career as a psychologist to documenting the varieties of resilient experience, focusing on our reactions to the death of a loved one and to what happens in the face of war, terror and disease. In every instance, he has found, most people adapt surprisingly well to whatever the world presents; life returns to a measure of normalcy in a matter of months. ...

"Bonanno started researching how we respond emotionally to bereavement and other traumatic events in the early 1990s while at the University of California, San Francisco. In those days, the prevailing wisdom held that the loss of a close friend or relative left indelible emotional scars - and Freudian grief work or a similar tonic was needed to return the mourner to a normal routine. Bonanno and his colleagues approached the task with open minds. Yet, again and again during the experiments, they found no trace of psychic wounds, raising the prospect that psychological resilience prevails, that it was not just a rare occurrence in in- dividuals blessed with propitious genes or gifted parents. This insight also raised the unsettling prospect that latter-day versions of grief work might end up producing more harm than good.

"In one example of his work, Bonanno and his colleague Dacher Keltner analyzed facial expressions of people who had lost loved ones recently. The videos bore no hint of any permanent sorrow that needed extirpation. As expected, the videos revealed sadness but also anger and happiness. Time and again, a grief-stricken person's expression would change from dejection to laughter and back.

"Were the guffaws genuine, the researchers wondered? They slowed down the video and looked for contraction of the orbicularis oculi muscles around the eyes - movements known as Duchenne expressions that confirm that laughs are what they seem, not just an artifact of a polite but insincere titter. The mourners, it turns out, exhibited the real thing. The same oscillation between sadness and mirth repeated itself in study after study.

"What does it mean? Bonanno surmises that melancholy helps us with healing after a loss, but unrelenting grief, like clinical depression, is just too much to bear, overwhelming the mourner. So the wiring inside our heads prevents most of us from getting stuck in an inconsolable psychological state. If our emotions get either too hot or cold, a kind of internal sensor - call it a 'resilience-stat' - returns us to equilibrium.

"Bonanno expanded his studies beyond bereavement. At Catholic University and later Columbia, he interviewed survivors of sexual abuse, New Yorkers who had gone through the 9/11 attacks and Hong Kong residents who had lived through the SARS epidemic. Wherever he went, the story was the same: 'Most of the people looked like they were coping just fine.'

"A familiar pattern emerged. In the immediate aftermath of death, disease or disaster, a third to two thirds of those surveyed experienced few, if any, symptoms that would merit classification as trauma: sleeping difficulties, hypervigilance or flashbacks, among other symptoms. Within six months the number that remained with these symptoms often fell to less than 10 percent."

Author: Gary Stix
Title: "The Neuroscience of True Grit"
Publisher: Scientific American Magazine
Date: March 2011
Pages: 31-32

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