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Can Any Good Come From Natural Disasters?

The devastation of Superstorm Sandy is something residents of New Jersey and New York have never seen, nor do I hope we ever do again.

The media pumped-up the anxiety, panic and stress levels of these residents to a fever pitch, and for once, they were right.  The constant, ever-present, and repetitive warnings of “catastrophic, devastating, dangerous, destructive and cataclysmic damage and danger” were all too true.  The loss of homes, businesses, electricity, gasoline, neighborhoods, lives (110 and counting), tempers, pets….were well beyond the level New Jersey has ever seen!

As a life-long resident of New Jersey for over 40 years, I have never seen anything like this.  With no experience in such situations, was there truly any way to know how to prepare?  Even with the “scare-a-minute” warnings from the media, no one could have had a clue as to the impact of this one.  “Buy batteries, water, canned goods, flashlights…”  Really?  In this storm…BOATS couldn’t help!  We all felt powerless in more ways than one!

When people feel “powerless,” and void of answers of what to expect, many things happen (and not good “things!”).  Panic, insecurity, tension, frustration, fear, alienation, depression, helplessness, anger and uncertainty.  On the large scale, such as in a natural disasters like Sandy, these reactions can be amplified well above “manageable.”   On a lesser scale, as in relationships, at work, and the like, they exist as a normal way of living.  The latter cause I see as a therapist every day.  However, the “catastrophic level” such as those caused by Sandy, are of a different breed all together!  I believe the government’s definition is Defcon 1 or “run for the hills, the world is going to end!”  In this state of panic, we all seem to forget the “problems” we have in every day life, and focus primarily on the matter at hand….survival.

Catastrophes like Sandy, do have a tendency to free the mind of the minute nuances we carry around day-to-day and cause us to feel bad and as if our lives are terrible.

This is very important to realize!  Why?  Because when the proverbial “chips are down,” we quickly learn what is important and what really matters!  What “really matters?”  What we HAVE!  Our home, health, lives, family and friends!  Everything else can and will be replaced.  This is absolutely imperative to know, absorb, believe and live!

Most of us shift into problem-solving or helpful mode during or after a crisis.  This is actually beneficial for several reasons!  First, helping others defeats feeling helpless.  Secondly, helping others forces us out of the “victim” role into the “survival” role,  and, studies prove, helping others and giving of ourselves is more the key to being “happy” than money, possessions or status!  We need to remember what was most important to us during a crisis, rather than before it!  Perspectives and priorities get right at these times more than ever!

Well…on second thought…that may not be true…sort of…(What are you talking about Leo?!”).  Let me explain!  I also believe that our perspectives change for the better under other circumstances.  In other words, it doesn’t take a catastrophic hurricane to “reset” our priorities.  (What?!)

Do you remember a loved one who has passed away?

A parent?  Pet?  Best friend?  Do you remember how nothing else mattered to you then??  It is a wake-up call.  Conversely, do you remember falling in love?  The start of a new relationship makes all of your regular problems magically disappear?  This is what I am saying!

We all have “day-to-day issues,” but when something in our lives gets really good or really bad, we somehow are able to focus on what really matters at that time!  This is the “Master Key” to Happiness and Satisfaction!  Somehow, someway, things always do seem to get better.  For the most part, we don’t need to know the answers to everything in our lives to be happy or comfortable.  We simply cannot have that ability, nor should we!  Think about that.  If we were to know every single outcome of our choices, or every single thought and motivation of our friends and loved ones, what would we really have?

Another thing about Natural Disasters that one can consider as a positive, is they bring out the best and altruistic nature of most people.  We want to help others, and in doing so, we are truly helping ourselves to cope with devastation.  The good in people shines more brightly than any bad.  Unfortunately, the media tends to embellish the looting, con games, scams, and criminal nature that does come out in some during these times, but research shows that these incidents are truly fewer and further between than what is reported.  Sadly, “bad news sells,” but good news prevails!

Helping others is exactly what we should do when tragedy like Sandy strikes.  We do it in snow storms, when friends or loved ones pass away, or when someone we love gets sick.  It just makes sense, and feels good to give ourselves to others.  More of this behavior as a lifestyle will lessen our own “issues” and bring us to higher levels of happiness and satisfaction.  Try it!

My heart and prayers truly go out to ALL that have suffered the wrath of Sandy!  Don’t give up and stay JERSEY STRONG!


Leo Battenhausen is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.