Where's my car gone? And what not to do about it
You will not notice this but I am writing this entry on a different laptop to previous ones. Why? Well here's the story...
A few days ago I came downstairs in my usual caffeine deprived semi-conscious state and having corrected this became aware that things weren't quite as I had left them when I went to bed. The main difference was that when I went to bed I had left car keys, a wallet and a laptop on the table and now they had disappeared. Like Sherlock Holmes on a good day I sifted the evidence excluded all the impossible solutions and came to the only possible conclusion---my wife must have moved everything.
I went upstairs to inquire why she had done this and she denied all knowledge. She also pointed out that robbery was more likely and that---given the car keys had gone---it might be worth checking on my car. I went back down stairs and noticed the back door wasn't locked, in fact the lock had been ripped off and, yes indeed, my car was gone.
This of course caused me to question many things. How could someone do this? How important are material objects? I pondered the competing aims of the criminal justice system between rehabilitation and punishment. But the key question was how could my wife, who claims not to sleep a wink due to feeding our new born baby, have heard nothing while burglars rampage through the house robbing me blind!
It is accepted fact in our house that nothing wakes me so I am excused.
I decide not to ask her about this but gained some satisfaction from the fact that so poor is her choice of car they didn't take her keys, which were lying next to mine.
Anyway, things turned out surprisingly well. No one was hurt, the police were sympathetic if not hopeful, the insurance companies for both house and cars were efficient, and have paid out quickly. Best of all my wife only pointed out three times that she had told me repeatedly to get the alarm system fixed (it hasn't worked for fifteen years!).
Now we come to the psychology
Don't get me wrong it was a upsetting; my elder daughter expressed real concern that with my wallet gone I would not be able to buy her any sweets! But in general we are OK.
But what to do if people do experience trauma? Well for a long time one answer was 'debriefing' or 'critical incident stress management'. This basically involves reviewing the event, talking about how it made you feel and your reactions to it. It seems self-evident that this will help people, so obviously it was done routinely with everyone after disasters and other traumatic events.
Well, it may seem the right thing to do, but that's not science. When people took the time to do studies it was found that it made no difference and---worse than that---it may actually increase the risk of people suffering long term psychological problems associated with the trauma.
What to do when trauma may happen?
The reality is we all perceive and react to events in different ways. Had I found a tarantula on the table we would now be moving house and I would be heavily sedated. So now the advice after trauma is to wait and watch and only offer therapy if people need it.
It is tough for doctors, nurses and psychologists not to do something when they see another suffering, but 2500 years ago the concept of 'primum non nocere' or 'first do no harm' was part of medicine and remains so today.