Managing Hurricane Dorian’s Psychological Aftermath

Hurricane Dorian may be over but not its aftermath. The physical damage it left behind in communities and to people in the Bahamas, Carolinas, even reaching up to Canada, is devastating. Unfortunately, the psychological effects of the natural disaster will inflict suffering for days, weeks and months to come, too.

Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren, associate professor of psychology

Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren, the author of The Courage to Suffer: A New Clinical Framework for Life’s Greatest Crises, recently wrapped up a three-year study on how survivors find meaning after natural disasters strike and how those events affect their views about God. He conducted a half dozen field studies following hurricanes Harvey and Irma, plus another half dozen lab-related studies. The project was funded by a $1.8 grant from the John Templeton Foundation and also involved colleagues at Wheaton College, Georgia State University and the University of North Texas.

And their findings? The people who were most resilient after a natural disaster had high intrinsic religiousness. “Religion was a central part of their identity; they didn’t have faith for social reasons,” Van Tongeren said in a recent Spera magazine article. “They hold their beliefs because they believe them to be true, and their religion permeates every aspect of their life. Those are the folks who are really doing the best.”

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