The ability to sympathize with others who are suffering from pain may be one of the god`s gift to human beings. Just after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, University of California Los Angeles conducted telephone interviews with 560 people found that the closer they were living to the disaster areas around Manhattan, the more stresses they were suffering from. Around 20 percent of those living in the immediate of the disasters were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Even if one is not a direct victim of a disaster, he or she can easily sustain a psychological injury caused by indirect experiences.
Still, the sufferings are no match for the internal traumas suffered by those who had firsthand experiences with disasters. Then, how should these people get out of their acute psychological aftereffects?
A report came out in the United States in 2003 that studied a couple who survived a pileup involving 100 or more vehicles. They were trapped in their car for several minutes after the accident. During the short time, they witnessed a horrible scene of a child in other car being burnt to death. Although they were in the same situation, they coped with it differently. The husband struggled to save himself and his wife by trying to break the window of his vehicle, while his wife was sitting frozen.
After the couple was rescued, a medical team ran an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan of their brains while reading a text describing the accident, discovering that the husband`s brain and the wife`s brain had been changed. Various parts of the husband`s brain, including the frontal lobe, were activated, while those of the wife`s brain were inactive. The differences affected the couple`s recovery process. Six months later, the husband recovered from the post-traumatic stress disorder, whereas his wife suffered from severe disorders to the extent that she had to sell off the business she had been running.
Anyone can suffer from an unexpected disaster. However, the couple`s cases suggest that the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder depends on how the victims take a disaster and try to overcome it. Just was the case with the husband, struggling to get out of an extreme situation can help cure the symptoms. However, it can be said that helplessly caving in to a situation is the main culprit that perpetuates the symptoms. Acting to overcome helplessness and bring about positive changes can not only change the surroundings but also cure oneself fundamentally.
Following the ferry sinking disaster, we should punish those who broke the law or abandoned their duties in order to prevent recurrences of such disasters. However, that is not all.
The national scar would not truly heal until Korea becomes a country that properly takes care of the safety of its people. In that sense, we should go back to where we used to be. After all, a society, which is a gathering of many I`s, is an expansion of "I." Making our society safer and more responsible starts from individual efforts, and this will return as true healing.
Russian writer Leo Tolstoy once said, "Joy can only be real if people look upon their life as a service and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness."