In the wake of the September 11th terrorism attacks in New York City, my therapy clients, for some months, stopped talking about themselves and their individual problems. Instead they concentrated on what they could do to help in the recovery effort. Public service messages urged those with post-traumatic stress disorder to talk about their feelings about the tragedy. As a psychotherapist, this made sense to me. I had been trained in the twentieth century to identify and help resolve neurotic conflict based on early familial trauma, but the magnitude of this disaster and how personally it involved all New Yorkers, clearly did not dictate a discussion of family history or neurotic conflict. Thus, the deviation from "the old rules." My clients, my family and I all naturally gravitated toward action and altruism as the correct road to recovery, and the narcissistic position of focusing inward and talking about feelings was supplanted by a concern for the greater good.
Twentieth century psychology focused on a business negotiation type model of conflict resolution. Twenty-first century psychology adds a philosophical or theological orientation. I find in my practice that patients are now very open to spiritual and moral interventions in addition to traditional psychological treatment that focuses on resolving inner conflict. Expressing warmth, generosity, gratitude, and appreciation in the face of conflict is, like most of the tools of twenty-first century psychology, tremendously empowering. Many of us discovered that inborn resilience is itself an effective tool for coping with trauma, a realization which then led to reparative actions and altruistic behaviors.
In his blog "The New Resilience," Douglas LaBier, Ph.D. also writes about the fact that "conventional descriptions of resilience and how to build it don't enable you to handle the challenges and stresses we face in the 21st Century.... Starting with 9-11, and especially since the economic meltdown that began in the fall of 2008, we've been living in a world that's rapidly transforming beneath our feet... The criteria of a new, proactive resiliency - maybe call it "prosilience - may sound con-tradictory because they include letting go of self-interest in your relationships and work...Resiliency grows from putting your energies, your values, emotional attitudes and actions in the service of the common good - something larger than just yourself. That's what supports both success in your outside life and internal well-being. And in today's rapidly transforming world, you need both."