Vicarious Trauma (VT): History & Research (3)

Risk Factors:

Risk factors are realities that make you more vulnerable to experiencing vicarious trauma or experiencing more severe vicarious trauma. Understanding your risk factors will make it easier to identify what might help you prevent or address vicarious trauma.

More details of signs and symptoms of VT:

  1. Those who have experienced trauma themselves may identify more closely with the types of pain or loss others have experienced and may be more vulnerable to experiencing vicarious trauma.
  2. Added stress in other areas of your life can make you more vulnerable to vicarious trauma.
  3. Lack of good social support puts you at increased risk for vicarious trauma.
  4. A lack of connection with a source of meaning, purpose, and hope risks developing more complex vicarious trauma.
  5. Unsustainable professional and work-life boundaries and unrealistic ideals and expectations about work can contribute to more complex vicarious trauma.
  6. Different situations present different challenges. However, research suggests that humanitarian workers who have more trauma survivors are likely to experience more complex vicarious trauma.
  7. Humanitarian organizations that don’t foster an organizational culture of effective management, open communication, and good staff care increase their staffs’ risk of vicarious trauma.
  8. People who have experienced traumatic events can react and interact in ways that humanitarian workers find frustrating and bewildering. Over time this can contribute to humanitarian workers’ experiences of vicarious trauma.
  9. Cultural intolerance can increase humanitarian workers’ risk of experiencing vicarious trauma in various ways.
  10. Not understanding cross-cultural differences in expressing distress and extending and receiving assistance can increase the risk of vicarious trauma.
  11. Humanitarian work as a profession is often characterized by self-neglect, toughing it out, risk-taking, and denial of personal needs. All of these can contribute to more severe vicarious trauma.
  12. Vicarious trauma results from psychological and spiritual disruptions that affect how we see ourselves, the world, and what matters most to us. It leads to VT’s physical, psychological, spiritual, relational, and behavioral signs.
  13. Vicarious trauma influences how you act and interact with people you love. It affects your family and friends.
  14. Vicarious trauma can negatively affect your work, your colleagues, the overall functioning of the organization, and the quality of assistance being provided to those you are working to help.
  15. An effective action plan for addressing vicarious trauma will reflect your own needs, experiences, interests, resources, culture, and values.
  16. Coping with vicarious trauma means identifying strategies that can help prevent vicarious trauma from becoming severe and help manage vicarious trauma when it is more problematic.
  17. Good coping strategies for vicarious trauma are things that help you take care of yourself – especially those that help you escape, rest, and play.
  18. Transforming vicarious trauma means identifying ways to nurture a sense of meaning and hope.

Vicarious Trauma (VT): History & Research (2)

Important Keys of VA:

Headington Institute came up with several vital keys in explaining VA. The Headington Institute provides psychological and spiritual support to humanitarian aid and disaster relief personnel worldwide. The Institute site on the Internet is, and anyone interested can get more information on the site. 

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The Keys are:

  1. Vicarious trauma is an ongoing process of change over time that results from witnessing or hearing about other people’s suffering and needs.Vicarious trauma happens because you care – because you empathize with people who are hurting. Empathy is the ability to identify with another person, to understand and feel another person’s pain and joy.


  1. When you identify with the pain of people who have endured terrible things, you bring their grief, fear, anger, and despair into your awareness and experience. Many humanitarian workers are very committed to their work and profoundly take this responsibility. It is not necessarily a bad thing! However, feeling committed and responsible can contribute to the process of vicarious trauma. It can lead to very high (and sometimes unrealistic) expectations of yourself and others and for the results you want to see from your work. For example, you may take it personally when your work or your organization’s work doesn’t impact what you want. Ironically, your sense of commitment and responsibility can eventually contribute to you feeling burdened, overwhelmed, and hopeless in the face of great need and suffering. It can also lead you to extend yourself beyond what is reasonable for your well-being or the best long-term interests of beneficiaries.


  1. Your commitment and sense of responsibility can lead to high expectations and eventually contribute to your feeling burdened, overwhelmed, and perhaps hopeless. A key component of vicarious trauma is changing spirituality. Not all of the spiritual changes that come from humanitarian work are negative! Many humanitarian workers feel they have grown and matured due to things they have seen and experienced. You may feel you gain a broader and more balanced perspective on life and end up better able to understand and empathize with others.


  1. A key component of vicarious trauma is changing in spirituality. Vicarious trauma can profoundly impact the way you see the world and your most profound sense of meaning and hope.Simply understanding vicarious trauma is a significant first step, and it will help you decide what you need to prevent best and address your vicarious trauma. Learning to be aware of and address vicarious trauma in an ongoing manner goes a long way toward making sure you don’t burn out or feel crushed by vicarious trauma or unintentionally harm others because of its effects.


  1. With appropriate tools, humanitarian workers and organizations can better understand, prevent, and address VT. Being beaten down by VT isn’t inevitable, but constantly addressing it.


  1. Anything that gets in the way of fulfilling your responsibility or commitment to help those affected by disaster or violence can contribute to your vicarious trauma.


  1. VT may be more problematic for people who tend to avoid problems or complicated feelings, blame others for their difficulties, or withdraw from others when things get complicated.

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Vicarious Trauma (VT): History & Research (1)

Research on Vicarious Trauma (VT) sheds light on the causes of compassion fatigue and the societal and organizational norms that can either worsen or mitigate its impactSince the early ’90s, the understanding of the root causes of VT has evolved considerably. It also created an awareness of the signs of its impact and strategies to prevent or manage it. One of the life crucible experiences is “Vicarious Trauma” or “Vicarious Traumatisation,” as some might call it. 

Before the advent of the term “Vicarious Trauma” and even after it was introduced, many other conditions described by psychologists and psychiatrists had similar causes and outward symptoms. VA is a disease of gender, and my background and pedigree in science have been beneficial in my research of VA and its causes, symptoms, and how one can mitigate the impact of VA. With increased awareness of the root causes of VA, professionals who work with suffering and crisis have tried to avoid its impact. Judith Herman explains the almost inevitable impact of VT: 

The therapist should expect to lose balance from time to time with traumatized individuals and needs a support system that includes a regular forum for reviewing their clinical work. The therapist must attend to the balance in their own professional and personal life and attend to personal needs.


Defining Vicarious Trauma:

One can describe Vicarious Trauma as the negative changes that happen to humanitarian workers over time as they witness other people’s suffering and need. These negative changes are the cost of caring for and caring about others who have been hurt. Therefore, we could define vicarious trauma this way: Vicarious trauma is the process of change that happens because you care about other people who have been hurt and feel committed or responsible for helping them. Over time this process can change your psychological, physical, and spiritual well-being. 

VT is the cumulative effect of contact with survivors of violence, disaster, or struggling people. It happens to you over time as you witness cruelty and loss and hear distressing stories, day after day and year after year. The experiences of vicarious trauma are continuously being influenced by life experiences (both those choices and those that happen during professional and personal lives. 


The Secret of Dust (Final)

The soul has organs of volition, emotions, and intellect. God views the man’s soul as the man himself as written in Matthew 16:26 “For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul? What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Our Spiritual life is meant to be Zoe. At regeneration, we receive the very life of God called Zoe in Greek Language meaning Everlasting life. This is the life the Father has in Himself, and He gave to the Incarnate Son to have in Himself. John 5: 26 says, “For as the father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.”


The state of perfect harmony and state of innocence prevailed before the Fall. That is the meaning of the Hebrew shalom. Shalom (peace) implies wholeness and harmony between man and God, man and nature, man and his fellow man. In the realm of human behavior, death came into the world through the sin of Adam. Passages such as Romans 5:12-14 remind us that death was initially foreign to man. As described in the Bible, death means not only the dying of the body but also spiritual separation from God accompanied by the symptoms of boredom, loneliness, loss of purpose, crime, violence, blights, disease, and a thousand miseries common our daily human experience. Despite all the advances in science and medicine, health, education, and sanitation, the mortality rate still stands precisely 100%. 


The human mind is wicked; the explanation I can deduce for the corrosive nature of man is within the secrets of dust. As I said earlier, Earth’s outer core is composed mainly of a nickel-iron alloy, while the inner core is almost entirely composed of iron. Iron, as we all know, corrodes. Maybe that is why man’s attitude is corrosive. We know stories of human greed, lust, wickedness, hatred, sexual immorality, and other bad behavior (s). The human race had no character and no integrity. Darkness covered the whole surface of the Earth by the sins of men. God got very angry once and destroyed the whole Earth with water, but in His Name, He swore not to do it again; but has the Earth changed? No. The Earth is still full of hypocrisy, but God’s love is unfailing. This logic of the relationality of being and cosmic life gives rise to the view that all reality is interrelated. This same relational metaphysics undergirds the individual’s life in the community.


J. S. Mbiti captures this relational metaphysics succinctly in the proclamation: “I am because we are and because we are therefore I am.” The individual’s life comes into fruition through the social ritual of rites of passage. These rites are the process that can help the individual to attain the goals of their destiny, given at birth by God. Those who successfully go through the rites of passage become candidates for ancestor hood — the goal of the ideal life. For the African, ancestors are much more than dead parents of the living, and they embody what it means to live the whole life contained in one’s destiny.

 The various elements of African religion that make the metaphysical structure of African religion are expressed differently by the various African people based on their social organization and environment. The strenuous resistance by man can never alter the Divine purpose of God. The hammer cannot break the anvil! It is madness to dream of thwarting God’s purpose. God made man do three main things: (1) Do Justly, (2) Love Mercy, and (3) Walk humbly with Him. With these three dictates, you might be one of the few to discern the secrets of dust or why God formed man from the dust of the ground. I am still searching the secrets; I might be lucky one day!

The Secret of Dust Series (2)

The Earth was formed as a habitat for men and angels and then filled with living creatures. As completed on the Seventh Day, the Earth was exquisitely beautiful, self-renewing, and free from defects or flaws. The statements of Gen. 1:31-2:3 indicate that God was thoroughly pleased with all aspects of His creative handwork after its completion. Six times in Chapter 1, God inspected His handwork and declared that it was “good” (v. 4, 12, 16, 21, and 25). When God completed all, his seventh and final blessing was to pronounce everything “perfect.”

Structure of the Earth

Geophysics studies the physics of the Earth has led to many significant discoveries about the Earth and its make-up. Scismological studies of the Earth uncovered new information about the interior of the Earth that has helped to give credence to plate tectonic theory. “Earth has several distinct layers, and each of these layers has its properties. The Earth’s outermost layer is the crust, and it comprises the continents and ocean basins. The crust has a variable thickness, 35-70 km thick in the continents and 5-10 km thick in the ocean basins. The crust is composed mainly of alumino-silicates.


The next layer is the mantle, composed mainly of ferro-magnesium silicates. It is about 2900 km thick and is separated into the upper and lower mantle. It is where most of the internal heat of the Earth is located. Large convective cells in the mantle circulate heat and drive plate tectonic processes. The last layer is the core, separated into the liquid outer core and the solid inner core. The outer core is 2300 km thick, and the inner core is 1200 km thick. The outer core is composed mainly of a nickel-iron alloy, while the inner core is almost entirely iron. Earth’s magnetic field is believed to be controlled by the liquid outer core.

 The Earth is separated into layers based on mechanical properties and composition. The topmost layer is the lithosphere, which comprises the crust and solid portion of the upper mantle. The lithosphere is divided into many plates that move concerning each other due to tectonic forces. The lithosphere essentially floats atop a semi-liquid layer known as the asthenosphere. This layer allows the solid lithosphere to move around since the asthenosphere is much weaker than the lithosphere. The Composition of the Earth proved that God is more significant than any scientist. God is the origin and creator of the Earth and heaven. No human scientist can re-create near the perfection of God’s Creation.

Man is physical and spiritual; we were designed to live simultaneously in two worlds, the material, and the “heavenly places. The man received three kinds of life at creation: spiritual, soulical, and physical. 

The physical life known as BIOS is the lowest kind of life. Public life is possessed by all living things, including plants and animals. The soulical life, also known as Psuche, refers to the natural life. It is the natural life of the fallen man. Man’s soul is the personality of man.

The Secrets of Dust Series (1)

In the day that the LORD God made the Earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the Earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the Earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the Earth and watered the whole face of the ground—then the LORD God formed [Heb: yatsar] man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath [ruach] of life; and man became a living being [nephesh]. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden [the word means “delight”], in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. (Lambert Dolphin)


The title might not be original. In fact, I watched a Mexican Movie Series on Television some years ago titled “Secrets of Sand.”  The reason behind my choice for this title differs significantly from that Movie. Genesis 2:7 (NIV) clearly says: “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. From this account of creation, the man was formed from the dust of the ground; therefore, the secret of dust is synonymous with the secrets of man.

The study of man is genuinely complex. Man cannot be trusted except a renewed spiritual man with God as the hub of his existence. A man’s heart is dangerous, and that is the reason for degenerates and gutter snipers. You can see the face but not what is hidden inside. Men can laugh with you, eat, and drink with you and then turn around to stab you to death. I have often wondered why man’s heart is wicked, but I no longer do so because it is coded in the ‘secrets of dust.’


Man cannot be tamed as one can tame animal pets. God who created humankind has reasons to regret creating man. God got annoyed and destroyed humankind at a time but did we change after that? The answer is NO. God also made a way for reconciling us back to Him, but do we recognize and acknowledge this way; the answer is NO. All humankind’s faults are embedded in the secrets of dust/sand.


Scientists have tested, surveyed, and performed incredible experiments on the sand & dust of the Earth, but none has decoded the secrets of dust. In this decode lies the proper understanding of man. My random thoughts are browsing and exploring many perspectives, but I must confess I am nowhere near the answer or answers. I have an analytical and scientific mind with a pragmatic legal leaning, yet I cannot fathom the secrets of the dust. Let me start my exploration from what I know and have learned about the Earth; maybe, or a peradventure together, we can learn the secrets of dust/sand.

Let’s continue our exploration tomorrow.