Posts Tagged ‘Rob Gordon’

“I want to walk where the paths know my feet”  I read this in a story about an Afghan woman being urged to leave her home village, and it resonated!

Rob Gordon says our routines are an important part of our procovery.  This past year I’ve established routes for walking to and from work.  In the morning I go via Latimer Square and St Asaph Street.  I come home through Cathedral Square, New Regent Street, and Poplar Crescent beside the river.  Some of these are paths I’ve trodden for decades, and I know my ancestors trod them too.  There’s comfort and security on these familiar paths, many of which were forbidden for months, or even years, after the earthquakes.

Over the last week there’s been an increase in obstacles and detours on my chosen way.  On Kilmore Street, Oxford Terrace, Gloucester Street. Armagh Street, and Manchester Street  I now need to negotiate my way around new wire fences and past more ‘Footpath closed’ signs.  I know that roads and infrastructure need repair, but the continual disruption makes me angry and frustrated.  There’s a website where motorists can find out which roads are closed today, but I’m not aware of such a facility for pedestrians.  When will it ever end?

“Whichever way I plan to go
it seems that someone will say “No!”

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Dr Rob Gordon came to our area to discuss ‘the challenges communities in an already fragile state face regarding cyclic disaster”.  He was great!

Before the meeting started he spoke to many of us and asked about our individual situations.  This must be one way of gathering anecdotes to illustrate his points.  I took some notes, and am recording them here in the hope they may be of use to others.  They are my interpretation, rather than verbatim.   Rob’s talk was easily understood, refreshing, and affirming.

Our social world is important, but because it’s always there, it can fade into the background.  When there’s a disaster, the tangible problem is physical and the risk is that we may think all we need to do is fix the damage.  In Christchurch there’s still a huge feeling of helplessness, because of EQC and insurance, and this stymied quality is emotionally demanding to tolerate.  There are three aspects to a disaster.

The first aspect is trauma, which may be informational trauma as well as physical, e.g. not knowing whether loved ones are okay.  At first we do a patch-up job and put the bad experience aside.  This takes energy, and leads to mental restrictions and tiredness.  When life settles down you start to reflect and things come back.  Such traumatic experiences go to the essence of what life means and you have to revisit it.  You need to talk about it enough to be able to safely think about it.  The ability to digest this kind of experience is very limited when we’re under stress.

The second aspect is loss.  It takes a long time to assimilate the loss of objects.  Heirlooms and mementoes are tangible props to our history.  We have to take lost people and things inside of us and sense a continuing connection.  This process takes years and is painful.  All of this has to do with identity and feeling comfortable.  There are multiple overlapping senses of ownership, e.g. some feel they own the ChristChurch Cathedral although they may never have worshipped there.  This is all part of the loss, and we need to re-connect ourselves to the community in a different way.  We always look for security in terms of familiarity – anchor points.  Loss of landscape equals loss of identity.  Uncertainty leads to anxiety and irritability.

The third aspect is the disruption of orderly routines.  Having routine frees up our mental attention and gives us supportive security.  We build our routines/rituals around what we value.  They are an expression of what’s important to us.  The structures of repeated actions are invisible, but when that support changes tension, isolation, and frustration grow.  Supportive relationships depend on a smooth flow of communication.  In a disaster we may compromise important intangible values for immediate priorities.  This leads to a degraded quality of life.  Without privacy we lose intimacy.

The word recovery means going back to what we had, but that’s not possible.  Dr Rob suggests we use ‘procovery’ instead.  The disaster was a decovery, with a wholesale loss of boundaries and privacy.  The ordered social world which is the fabric of our lives needs routines, and at a time of disaster it may take all our attention to deal with trivial events.  If we can recognise our stress we can protect ourselves.

To survive a major physical threat adrenalin floods our system with a surge of energy that involves massive use of reserves.  When it comes to later threats we need to think differently.  The shift from immediate stress to persisting stress requires us to go into endurance mode with higher levels of cortisol.  This is a zombie state where we use the bare minimum of energy to get by.  All systems stop working well.  Where adrenalin uses up reserves, cortisol chews up our substance.  We can deal with simple things, but not with anything complicated.  Dr Bob says we may function well at work, but not at home (an ‘aha’ moment for me!).  The cortisol state is dangerous and will continue until we can get back to routine.  If we’re in cortisol mode we will have memory problems because cortisol has a selective effect on memories.  In this state we lose connection with our deep values and motivations, and we need to disengage and have fun.  (This is where the All Right? campaign is aimed.)  As we come out of this mode we may hit an identity crisis.  Once things are fixed it’s time for reflection and lots of talking.  Some questions to consider are:

What did you used to do that had deep meaning for you?
Do you still do it?
If not, what do you do instead?

Dr Rob suggests we get out of Christchurch if we can, and recharge so we can reflect.  The remedy to reduc e tnesion and absorb new energy is Pleasure and Leisure.  Enjoyment is a necessity every day.  The next year or two will see the peak of the cortisol zone.  We need to reflect and rebuild our sense of security.  Make plans to do things we enjoy, and finally, accept what we can’t change.

Someone asked whether it would be wise to watch the drama series “Hope and Wire” soon to screen on TV3.  Dr Rob suggested if we’re unsure, it’s better not to watch it.  If we do watch it’s important not to expect our personal experience to be portrayed.

It’s a pity CERA, who hosted the meeting, couldn’t have arranged for a cup of tea afterwards.  This would have met the obligations of manaakitanga and given people the chance to discuss and digest what they’d heard.  If you’d like to hear more of Dr Rob’s wisdom click here.

“The doctor tells it how it is
and many useful words are his.”

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Did you notice I haven’t blogged for over three weeks?  The reason is that all my energy has been taken up with responsibilities, and I simply haven’t had time or inspiration to post here.  The break in Kaikoura last month really brought home to me how stressful living in Christchurch is.  Since then we’ve had more rain, and more flooding, and the media and community seem full of negativity.  This is the year four recovery stress that Dr Rob Gordon talks about.

I’m lucky that the only personal effect the rain has on me is that I have to negotiate some large puddles.  Our garden gets sodden, but that’s all, and it will dry eventually.  In the meantime we have dozens of snowdrops in flower.

Long weekends for Easter and Anzac holidays were time for rest and fun.  We loved “The Hound of the Baskervilles” at the Court Theatre, although driving there in a deluge was challenging.  There have been fun times, and I’ve taken photos, but I’ve not shared them here.  Blogging is/needs to be a pleasure, and I won’t write if it seems like a duty.

I realise that like so many in Christchurch I am weary to the bone, with depleted reserves physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  In my blog I usually avoid writing negatively or about anything very personal, but I also want to tell it how it is.  I’d like to document improvments in the central city, and will, when I see some.  I’m lucky to have a job I love, and a husband who cares for me and cooks my dinners, and there is lately little space for anything else.  This is the dying time of year, when we all need to retreat inside, both physically and psychologically, and that’s what I’m doing right now.

I’ve so much appreciated messages which have come from near and far asking whether I’m all right because you’ve missed my blogs.  That kind of caring gives me a real boost.  I’m also working on plans for more restorative breaks, and trying to ensure there’s some fun each day.   There might even be a few more blog posts soon.

“Did you miss my daily post?
Perhaps I need a writer (ghost).”


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