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Traumatic stories

Traumatic incident

Much of Christine’s work has to do with training judges on judicial ethics and supporting judicial authorities in the process of holding mobile court hearings in jurisdictions all over the country. She is assisted by Bertrand, who helps her with everything from organizational matters to explaining the conflict’s background and the challenges the country still faces. Christine hears numerous horrifying accounts from witnesses and from the judges she supports. Many people in the country suffered immensely as a result of the conflict and continue to do so as they encounter violence and persecution. At times, Christine feels overwhelmed and has trouble coping with these traumatic stories. While the memory of violence experienced by his family sometimes makes Bertrand quiet and reclusive, Christine typically has the urge to distract herself by going out and spending time with other colleagues.

Additional information

The perception of events as stressful or as burdensome depends upon a person’s stress threshold and also on the individual’s current situation. Thus, one person may perceive outward conditions as very burdensome while another finds them motivating and challenging.

A person becomes traumatized if he or she is exposed to threats and brutality that violate emotional boundaries, thus causing intense fear and/or feelings of terror. At the same time, the person is exposed to the situation and can neither escape from it nor fight it.  As a result, they can experience feelings of helplessness. The body is unable to cope with the overwhelming breadth of emotions and experiences the person is subjected to in the way it usually would. Both body and mind are overburdened and overwhelmed.  In a way the body then pretends that it is rather dead and refuses to experience the overly intense feelings. It can no longer come to terms with, for example, the extreme images, sounds, smells, or pain. Traumatized persons often seem dazed and numb, occasionally having trouble orienting themselves in the present moment. Their body is limited to the functions immediately necessary for survival.

It has been observed that those working with traumatized persons and those people who are motivated to help them may develop the same or similar symptoms as the people they are helping. This may strongly influence both the quality of life and the quality of the work of the person who is helping. The transgressive nature of the original traumatic situation is then extended, so to speak, and affects the psychological limitations of the helpers.