How to handle uncertainty in a situation of crisis?
"The best help is to get people to help others"
after the attack on America on September 11th 2001, Mr. Shaul Lev,
an Israeli expert in crisis management, was sponsored by the Template Society
in Israel to take a plane to New York, to help some friends with his experience
and skills. To his surprise he soon found himself taking 15 workshops within
10 days. It started with some friends, who then brought neighbours and work
colleagues and by the end of the 10 days, 300-400 people had been involved.
Most of the world has been affected by the shock of this attack.
TOPAZ wanted to get more insights about the psychological consequences of such
a traumatic experience, and what a person can do if it happens to them.
Topaz: How do you approach assisting a person who has been involved in an
extreme crisis, and what support does a person need in these circumstances?
The first thing I normally do is to let people know and feel that they can
actually overcome this situation, that it is possible, and that I can speak
to them from personal experience. In New York one of the main approaches I was
able to offer was in the area of how to handle uncertainty.
The second thing I offer are frameworks and patterns of thinking for how to
inter-react with other people, knowing that it won't be the same as before.
A question to look at in such a situation is what a person should change in
their life and what they should not change.
Topaz: What psychological consequences can such a traumatic experience have
on a person?
People start to doubt themselves. The depression, frustration and anxiety is
often so strong, that people become insecure, even about simple matters such
as whether it is alright to have a laugh. Inner stability and trust gets shattered.
This often leads to lack of trust in others, lack of belief and hope in any
future. In New York, I also met a flourishing industry of rumour, by e-mail,
telephone or word of mouth, and rumours are the messengers of fear. These then
weaken the self-confidence of a person even further, and the spreading of rumour
spreads more terror in the heart of people. It is always a question of how to
get back to your better routine in life.
Is there a pattern of reaction people often go into in response to a traumatic
After a devastating experience, nobody can change what has happened in them,
but what they can do is to form a new position from where they are now.
There are normally two reactions that happen. People can react by avoidance,
by basing their confidence in thinking, "it will not happen again, or it
will not happen to me again". The other response is one of continuous fear,
"I am a victim, it will happen to me again very soon, anywhere I go".
Neither reaction allows for a positive way of going forward.
We therefore suggest and work with a third response, which would be, "what
I can do now, consciously, across three different territories", which are
firstly in one's personal conduct and life, secondly as part of a larger group,
such as family or at work, and the third as a citizen of the nation.
In New York we also applied processes and methods, which we have developed
called "Position Purple", which enables people who are confused to
be able to make decisions again. They are then able to build a barrier in themselves,
rather like a mental firewall, that prevents unreliable information and influence
getting into them. Terrorism causes fear, and like a virus it gets into a person
and affects them from within, by weakening them, causing doubt and hesitation
- it manifests in more tension, more stress, and less productivity.
We also suggest to people to establish a more supportive relationship with
the people around them, neighbours, people at work, or family, which will be
helpful if such an extreme crisis happens again.
Topaz: What is this technique you mentioned, Position Purple, how did it
Position Purple is a global network of experts in different fields that provides
training and counsel towards being better ready to cope with the challenges
of life. Its expertise includes technologies and tools that help people prepare
for crisis and major changes that may occur in their lives. It includes the
way to overcome the result of a trauma by establishing a better routine than
existed before. It helps people to become better leaders of themselves and others
rather than being led by fear and terror.
Shaul Lev is Co-founder and CEO of Position Purple Ltd. He is an expert
in training people to handle stress and situations of threat or crisis. Mr.
Lev is also the co-writer of the book: "Survival" - a personal security
Further information: Position Purple homepage: www.position-purple.com