Adaptive Growth Following Terrorism: Vigilance and Anger as Facilitators of Posttraumatic Growth in the Aftermath of the Bali Bombings

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Although exposure to the heinous nature of terrorism can result in psychological distress, fear, and horror, it may also bring positive change and psychological growth in individuals, communities, and society as a whole. A qualitative longitudinal case study at 2 and 7 years post exposure to the Bali Bombing of 2005 used interpretative phenomenological analysis to explore an individual’s subjective ‘lived’ experiences. The overarching theme, Vigilance and anger: growthful adaptation to terrorism reflected the positive use of vigilance and anger for redefining ‘self’ following a terrorist-related traumatic event. This included ongoing personal risk assessment that recognized the possibility of future terrorist attacks. Four subordinate themes: violent interruption, grief and disconnection, struggling for meaning, and growth through anger and vigilance, encapsulated a momentary and life changing violent personal catastrophe, and the relational and existential challenges that followed. Vigilance and anger, responses normally recognized as aspects of distress following trauma, appeared to be adaptive over time for the integration of distress and growth in a world where the threat of terrorism remains constant. The role of justifiable anger and ongoing vigilance in a new world order inclusive of terrorism and in the absence of other psychopathology, has implications for therapy.

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