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The Conference on Psychology at Comillas addressed crisis situations, vulnerability and overcoming adversity


Jornadas de Psicología ComillasThe Faculty of Social and Human Sciences at Comillas hosted the Conference on Psychology entitled “Crisis, vulnerability and overcoming”. Julio Martínez, SJ, Vice-Rector for Research, Development and Innovation, chaired the opening session along with the Faculty’s Dean, Belén Urosa and the Head of the Psychology Department, María Prieto. The opening lecture was delivered by Carmelo Vázquez, professor of Psychology at the Complutense University, who addressed the limits of traumatic experiences: “There is also room for positive emotions even in the most extreme situations, and to recognise this has meant a lot in the field of psychology”, he said.

Vázquez presented the evolution experienced by psychology in the understanding and treatment of traumatic experiences, from the pathology to positive feelings, going through vulnerability and resilience or individuals’ capacity to overcome periods of emotional pain. The lecturer focused on post-traumatic stress and presented a number of studies carried out both in USA and Europe, which show that two out of three people have faced a potentially traumatic experience in their lifetime. “If all these people experienced a traumatic reaction, we would have very high rates of post-traumatic stress, but it is not so. This response appears in a very minor proportion of the population, most people could be described as resilient, he added.

Vázquez insisted on the positive effects of trauma. He said that 50 per cent of people are able to perceive some kind of benefit from what happened, whether they are parents who have lost their children, sick people, people suffering from spinal injuries, or victims of natural disasters. However, before concluding, he added a word of warning to therapists: “We must be cautions and never try to impose expectations of growth and need for positive changes upon patients”.

In her opening remarks, María Prieto expressed her satisfaction with the conference, which is a different way for students to learn compared to that in the classroom, a high level of scientific activity that brings students, lecturers and professionals together for theoretical discussion and learning. “We are vulnerable but not weak, we are not easy to break down”, said the head of the Department who, without downplaying trauma and pain, said that what matters in a crisis is the ability to overcome of those suffering it. “We as human beings have an incredible capacity to turn from victims to survivors”, she concluded.

“Critical events are those that allow life to go ahead, and individuals, families and groups to change to improve” Belén Urosa said. The Dean, who is also a lecturer on the BA in Psychology, expressed her belief that there would be no development, improvement or personal growth without crisis: “Societies where everything is easy, everything is given, do not grow, do not evolve, do not come to fruition”.

The Vice-Rector underlined two levels of vulnerability when faced with such a crisis as that of today’s, which is not only an economic and financial one but has “deeper, more anthropological and moral roots”. The first of these two stages is micro-vulnerability, the vulnerability inherent in human beings, their fundamental anthropological status. “We are born completely dependent, and that is maintained throughout life although at other levels”. Professor Martínez explained that this is not negative, but a source of some of the most important things we have in life: “Without the recognition of our own vulnerability, there would be no morals, no awareness or compassion”. The second stage is macro-vulnerability, the novelty of our time, which is linked to globalisation. “Never before in the history of humanity have we realised that we are vulnerable as societies and even as a planet”. Before concluding, the Vice-Rector noted the importance of being aware of one’s own vulnerability. “When we are not aware that it accompanies us, me turn power into something inhuman”, he concluded.

Conference programmes.

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