Lucy Beresford Blog: How We Psychologically Respond To Terror

24 March 2017, 12:06

Trafalgar Square Vigil For Westminster

LBC Presenter and Psychotherapist, Lucy Beresford, explains how we psychologically respond to terror - and the three things which unite us all.

We’re all trying to grapple with this new dawn, after trauma. Terror trumps all emotions; fear over-rides all other feelings. It’s our flight or fight mode kicking in. Our collective psyche is wounded. We go primal. 

But that’s what the terrorists want. They want to spread fear, they want us shrinking back into our primitive silos. They want us to point the finger of blame at others, to make ourselves feel better about ourselves, to highlight the divisions. 

Pointing the finger of blame makes us feel like we’re doing something, anything, otherwise we feel helpless.

Stereotypes play an intriguing role in the human psyche. Our brains are designed to make snap judgments: good or bad, cat or sabre-tooth tiger, friend or foe. 

But the generalisations aren’t always accurate. The brain works on the basis of ‘probable accuracy, not ‘perfect accuracy’. Freud talked about “undisguised antipathies towards strangers” – it’s what we do.

And yet we can undo it, consciously. We need to challenge our own prejudices at a conscious level. 

Trafalgar Square Vigil For Westminster

Members of the public during the candlelight vigil in Trafalgar Square Photo: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire/PA Images 

At Trafalgar Square last night I saw non-Muslims shaking hands with Muslims, many who held banners saying ‘Love for All, Hatred for None.’ 

Studies show that empathy developed towards one member of a stigmatised group will expand to empathy for the group as a whole. 

This week, more than ever, we need to look beyond the differences and celebrate the things that make us the same as human being – whatever our age, our gender, our sexual orientation, our faith or lack of it, we all want to feel safe, to feel loved and to feel heard. 

Deep down, we are all the same.  

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