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Ethical and Cultural Issues Arising from the Psychology of Terrorism

Section 2
Techniques for Treating Victims of Terrorism: Healing in Traumatic Grief

Question 2 | Test | Table of Contents

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You may find yourself saying, "I don’t believe this," or, "this issue is far more complex!" regarding the oversimplified explanation of the justification for terrorism, or question the ethics of reducing a complicated issue to a simple statement. The purpose behind providing clients with the above simplified ethical and cultural information concerning the psychology of terrorism is tool number two to move the client from asking why to asking how. Grief, as you know, has been experienced at many levels as a normal reaction to terrorist actions.

Tool #2: Moving the Client from Asking "Why" to Asking "How"
"Why?" questions are a normal part of this grief recovery process, but, as you know, they are just one step along the way. Recovery depends upon, among other things, letting go of the "why?" questions and turning instead to questions that begin with the word "how."

The hard fact is: When we or our clients experience a major loss there is no satisfactory answer to the question "Why?" - unless we are ready to say that this is a frail world that is full of flaws. It isn’t perfect and life doesn’t follow a perfect script.

♦ To ask "why?" when a major loss happens is certainly normal... but a vital sign of recovery is the emergence of questions beginning with the word "how." "How can I work through this loss and achieve as full a life as possible?" "How can I use this experience to help someone else?" "How do I find meaning in life alone after many years of marriage?" Questions beginning with the word "how" begin with an acknowledgment of the loss that has taken place. They carry with them the unspoken affirmation: "I will survive this loss. I will live."

A goal you might have in a therapy session is moving your client from questions of "why?" to those of "how?"

♦ Beliefs that Help
After the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York, many were left asking, "Why is this happening to me?"
The "why?" questions turned to:
"How can I put my life back together?"
"How can I carry on as a single parent?"
-- "How can I return to my job when so many of my fellow workers died in this tragedy?"
-- "How can I keep from hurting others through my own pain?"

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
DiSunno, R., Linton, K., & Bowes, E. (2011). World Trade Center tragedy: Concomitant healing in traumatic grief through art therapy with children. Traumatology, 17(3), 47–52.

Harris-Hogan, S. (2018). Terrorism, 1888–2018: Some change, but mostly the same. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 5(4), 245–247.

Horgan, J. G. (2017). Psychology of terrorism: Introduction to the special issue. American Psychologist, 72(3), 199–204.

Kristensen, P., Dyregrov, K., Dyregrov, A., & Heir, T. (2016). Media exposure and prolonged grief: A study of bereaved parents and siblings after the 2011 Utøya Island terror attack. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 8(6), 661–667.

Salman, N. L., & Gill, P. (2020). A survey of risk and threat assessors: Processes, skills, and characteristics in terrorism risk assessment. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 7(1-2), 122–129.

Tschantret, J. (2021). The psychology of right-wing terrorism: A text-based personality analysis. Psychology of Violence, 11(2), 113–122.

The purpose behind providing clients with ethical and cultural information concerning the psychology of terrorism is to do what regarding the grief process? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 3
Table of Contents