Prof. Nevzat Tarhan: "Trauma disrupts the psychological integrity of a person"


President of Üsküdar University, Psychiatrist Prof. Nevzat Tarhan met with earthquake victims at the event organized by Hatay Mustafa Kemal University on the 1st anniversary of the great earthquake that occurred on February 6, 2023, and caused great destruction in 10 provinces, especially Kahramanmaraş. Tarhan shared important information with students, academic and administrative staff under the title of 'Post-Earthquake Trauma and Methods of Coping with Traumas' and said that trauma disrupts the psychological integrity of people. Pointing out that lessons should be learned from past experiences and looked to the future, Prof. Nevzat Tarhan noted that people suffer more when they try to solve the things they cannot afford. Tarhan also emphasized that the biggest global problem in the world is the lack of empathy.

The moderator of the online event, which took place with Hatay Mustafa Kemal University, was Prof. İsa Yücel İşgör, who is instructor at Hatay Mustafa Kemal University Psychological Counseling and Guidance (PDR) Department. Hatay Mustafa Kemal University Rector Prof. Veysel Eren also attended the event.

"In trauma, the psychological integrity of the human being is impaired"

Stating that it is necessary to evaluate the meaning dimension of traumas well, President of Üsküdar University, Psychiatrist Prof. Nevzat Tarhan said that "When there is trauma in our body, orthopedic problems such as fractures, injuries occur. When these orthopedic problems are experienced, people feel severe pain. There is pain, casts, surgeries that people deal with. This trauma disrupts the physical integrity of the person, and the pain stems from there. In psychological traumas, there is a physical trauma and a financial loss in that area. Except for the deceased, people's relatives and people in that region are also psychologically traumatized. In this trauma, the psychological integrity of the person is impaired. When our physical integrity is disrupted in the body, we feel pain, and when our psychological integrity is disrupted, we feel fear and anxiety."

"Chaos and crises are part of perfection"

Stating that it is necessary to look at the psychological meaning dimension of trauma, Prof. Nevzat Tarhan expressed that "Those life events, flaws, mistakes, deficiencies, and irregularities are actually part of perfection. This is the definition of quantum physics. Chaos and crises are part of perfection. These are the laws of creation in the universe for the creation of perfection. Every life event has a threat dimension and an opportunity dimension. This is how positive psychology looks at the event. In the threat dimension of every event we experience, there are many financial losses, and the loss of our relatives... The opportunity aspect of this is to look at what this event has taught us and apply the scale of post-traumatic growth. Applying substances of that scale changes the philosophy of life, there are some changes in interpersonal relations, there are changes in self-perception."

"We will learn from past experiences, we will look to the future, but we will also do what we need to do today"

Stating that trauma has a very high tendency to disrupt the psychological integrity of people, Tarhan underlined that childhood traumas are routinely measured in almost every disease. Tarhan stated that "If a person has a lot of childhood trauma, we continue the treatment of diseases accordingly. Those traumas, for example, are unresolved trauma or complicated grief. Losing someone is experiencing unresolved complicated grief. To resolve grief, you put it in a logical framework, a dimension of meaning, accept it, and then manage it. This is a method used in therapy. Here, too, people who can do it can overcome this situation without the need for a specialist or a therapist. We need to evaluate the meaning dimension of trauma in this way. We will learn from past experiences, we will look to the future, but we will also do what we need to do today."

"The more people try to solve something they cannot, the more they suffer"

Stating that it is easier to accept natural disasters because they are outside the will of manpower, Tarhan said that "There is usually a four-step response in trauma. The first reaction is denial and ignoring. When faced with the realities of the trauma and concrete symptoms appear, this time the second period of protest begins. Protests, such as 'Why did it happen to me, I did not deserve this.' The third stage is the depression stage in which feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness occur. In the fourth stage, there is acceptance and bargaining. In fact, a person is bargaining in the depression stage. For example, let's say you are diagnosed with cancer in trauma. They say, ‘let me die after my child grow up’, and it is like negotiating with fate. Acceptance occurs, and the faster the person passes the acceptance stage, the easier it is to overcome the trauma. Therefore, therapies used to be 'Debriefing', that is, trying to confront one’s grief and overcome it. At the moment, when it is preferred, on the contrary, it itches the trauma more because the more people try to solve something that they cannot control and cannot afford, the more they suffer."

"If a person experiences feelings of trauma, unresolved trauma turns into resolved trauma"

Stating that it is not right to give medication for 8 weeks after the trauma, Prof. Tarhan stated that the person should experience the pain and sadness of the trauma. Tarhan said that "If a person experiences feelings of trauma, unresolved trauma turns into resolved trauma. If these feelings are not experienced, if they are suppressed, or if the patient spends that day by being put to sleep, the person feels more guilty because they do not experience that emotion, saying, ‘I lost my mother, I lost my child, what kind of person I am, I never had tears in my eyes, I never felt sad.’ Thus, experiencing that pain contributes to the logical resolution and emotional resolution of the trauma. Sometimes the person gets depressed and withdraws from life. It depends on your personality structure. The trauma effect of the event itself is 20-30 percent, and 70-80 percent is the way the event is handled. It is one’s perspective and attitude towards the event. Even in the most traumatic event, there is a method that we use in positive psychotherapy. There are some flowers that bear fruit in all four seasons. There are some flowers, for example, orchids, that bloom in all four seasons, this is called authentic happiness. They manage to be happy in any environment. Whether in prison or in an earthquake, they manage to be happy in any environment. This is authentic happiness. People who learn this happiness can overcome even the biggest trauma."

"Our biggest global problem is the lack of empathy..."

Stating that trauma only affected those who experienced the trauma, Prof. Nevzat Tarhan said that "Before, there was posttraumatic stress disorder, but like the world being an electronic village, communication technologies, and the generalization of social media, it has come out that if there is a first trauma for those living in this region, there is a second or third degree trauma for people who live far away. They experienced the same pain. As we have seen in the Gaza incidents, there are people who suffer as if the whole world is in Gaza. From Denmark to America and England. This now shows that traumas are globalized, reactions are globalized. This is a good thing, and humanity will understand each other better. The more social contact, the more empathy develops. Our biggest global problem is the lack of empathy. Even if you put all the evil in the room, the door is sure to be opened by a lack of empathy. Behind the lack of empathy is selfishness. The selfish person is emotionally blind and emotionally deaf. The person does not see the feelings and pain of others. For this reason, when evaluating the risks of traumas, it is necessary to consider all of them as the biological dimension, the psychological dimension, the social dimension, and the semantic dimension."

"If a person progresses by drawing positive strategies in his life, this trauma turns into gain"

Stating that the teachings of the ancient culture are very useful, Prof. Tarhan said that "Do not criticize those people, they cannot help but go through that situation. Let's accept them and make them feel that we are with them. In any case, you cannot correct the person with advice, and you demoralize them more by advising them. Sentences like ‘there are worse things’, do not help at all, it only adds to the pain. There is no need to talk for a long time for him, let's make them feel that we are with that person. Let a person set a constructive goal for themselves and develop themselves in this direction. There are protection methods such as social rehabilitation studies and tertiary protection here, but since this usually exceeds a year, if it disrupts one’s daily life, one should get professional support, and if it does not disrupt one’s daily life, one should not go too far. If a person sees the positive and negative aspects of their life and moves forward by drawing positive strategies in their life, this trauma turns into gain. It turns into self-enhancing trauma. It is conducive to a new breakthrough for those who take the right stance in the medium and long term."

"Those who cannot solve the trauma mummify that trauma"

Stating that forgetting the trauma is not the solution, Prof. Nevzat Tarhan emphasized that the trauma should be miniaturized, and its memory should be kept alive. Tarhan expressed that "For example, when a person loses a relative, a memory of them is miniaturized and kept alive. Those who cannot solve the trauma mummify that trauma. In other words, they are experiencing the same violence and pain as they did a year ago. This is psychologically mummifying, and this trauma is continuing. That is why they should miniaturize it, not forget it, but not live as if it had just happened. Of course, such a trauma is unforgettable. It is not right to try to make us forget, but we need to say that we have to live this and accept it and say what we will do to prevent it from happening again. In the grief reaction, if the person miniaturizes the trauma, that is, if a person reduces it and turns it into a symbol and creates a new lifestyle for oneself by respecting his memory, a person manages that trauma and his grief."

"Unresolved grief becomes complicated grief"

Stating that unresolved grief has become complicated grief, Prof. Tarhan stated that depression is added to the law in this case. Tarhan expressed that "It is an obsession. Related to this, there are now avoidance behaviors and anticipatory anxiety. A person expects it to be continuous. The person has a constant health concern, and there is a constant anxiety about illness as if the same thing will happen. Some people become disable, they do not have their productivity that they used to have, if the person has not returned to their previous activities at a normal age, an individual solution is required after this stage. Personalized treatment, usually with medication and therapy, can change the grieving process from complicated grief to resolved grief. There are still cases that come with the effect of the Gölcük earthquake, although it has decreased a lot compared to the past, there are still them. People who cannot solve this event seem to have solved it; however, under that stress, that unresolved grief in the brain flares up. An event reminiscent of an earthquake is as if an earthquake is happening. If there is an earthquake in another place, one feels like as if it is happening where they are. These will happen, but their severity and frequency must gradually decrease. It is not possible for it to decrease suddenly, when you cut a tree, it does not dry out suddenly, it dries up gradually. This will gradually resolve in trauma. It is necessary to seek individual support and personalized solutions for these people, but if they can do this, there is no need for a specialist or a drug treatment."

Prof. Veysel Eren: "Avoiding confrontation deepens trauma..."

Expressing his gratitude to Prof. Nevzat Tarhan for his participation at the end of the program, Hatay Mustafa Kemal University Rector Prof. Veysel Eren said that the program was very beneficial for them for the earthquake zone. Eren stated that "I would like to thank my esteemed professor for his contributions, and his remarks are extremely correct. Avoiding the truth actually deepens the trauma, so if we are here, if we are from here, if we work here, we need to be here somehow. In other words, it is not possible to overcome this trauma away from here. We have been here since the first day of the earthquake, we are trying to revive our university and we are happy to see that we have contributed to the developments here. I hope that, as our professor Nevzat mentioned, this earthquake that our city has experienced will play an important role in changing the fate of Türkiye and changing the fate of the region. The people here will get rid of this disaster as soon as possible in a much stronger way."

Üsküdar News Agency (ÜNA)