National Security: and its Impact on Nation’s Psychological Health

Written By: Dr. Mauna Gauhar

According to Humanistic School of Psychology, humans have an innate capacity to grow. When the environment is conducive, people feel safe and their sense of security is enhanced. Secure people are able to incorporate ideas, find novel, creative practical solutions, have a purpose in life, contribute socially, look after themselves, can regulate emotions and work towards personal autonomy. The sooner we invest in the psychological world of human resource the quicker we would observe change.

The quotient of mental / psychological health of a society can be measured from the increase of unrest, agitation and crime rate amongst the masses. Societies become self-destructive when a segment of population creates disruption and no counter measures seem to be taken towards correction. As a humanistic professional, I am ever concerned about client population and their issues, especially those relating to safety and security. Psychological issues have grown manifold in the face of ever growing environmental and circumstantial challenges that we as a nation are facing since decades. A child born in today’s Pakistan is already faced with the energy crises, terrorism, dwindling economy, socio-political instability, proxy wars, ethnic, religious and sectarian divide; a few to name. The parents and the child is born to, are already affected by the fore – mentioned difficulties. In many cases, both the parents have to earn either to maintain or to improve the quality of life. However, the stress and pressures of work, personal psychological baggage, existential issues and the endless presentation of negative state of political affairs on the media impact the minds generally, and get translated into interpersonal familial relationships. The stress an average Pakistani carries today and continues to face is huge and is often on the increase; and their coping mechanisms in the face of it often inadequate. As a result, restlessness, intolerance, relationship issues, drugs intake, physical and mental health problems are on the rise. Pakistani nation is exposed to traditional and non-traditional security threats, the collective impact of which has affected the mental and physical health of people generally. Masses have experienced neglect for so long that resorting to extreme behaviours appears to be the only way to be noticed.

The term ‘security’ refers to protection against threat to human life or well being. However in broader terms, any challenge that is perceived as an existential problem, and the intensity of which calls to action the coping mechanisms of individuals or state. For instance environmental, security, communicable disease, economic challenges, financial security, terrorism, natural calamities, drug trafficking, piracy, illegal immigration, famine, sanitation, lack of education / skill, large opponents, propaganda, violence, inter-sect disharmony, psychological warfare, subliminal messaging, mental and physical health problems – all these factors fall in the category of security threats and therefore require corrective measures as these affect the mental health and human growth index adversely.

The importance of safety and security for the human survival and development can be ascertained from the fact that most of the psychological / psychiatric issues manifested in the adult personality can be traced back to lack of safety which one received as a child in the form of neglect, abuse and maltreatment etc. Such earlier negative experiences lay foundation for future emotionally insecure personality. Emotional insecurity or simply insecurity refers to a feeling of general unease or nervousness that may be triggered by perceiving oneself inferior or vulnerable in some way which threatens one’s self image. When people have to live with such feelings day in and day out, it is drainage of energy. These feelings are further enhanced when threats in the environment persist unabatedly.

An insecure individual perceives him/herself as frail, sees the world as a threatening wilderness, and most people as perilous and selfish; feels rejected, isolated, hostile and anxious, is by and large skeptical and miserable; is often conflicted and shows signs of tension; has a tendency to turn inwards and isolate himself; is vexed by guilt feelings, has an alternate unsettling influence of disturbed self-esteem; has a tendency to be neurotic; and can be for the most part, self-centred and egocentric. However in every insecure individual there is a ceaseless, endless aching for security. Two people with the same capabilities may have entirely different levels of insecurity. People often have some of these feelings from time to time, however, in a rather emotionally secure person these feelings are temporary. This is not to be mistaken for modesty, which includes perceiving one's inadequacies yet at the same time keeping up a sound dosage of self-assurance. Insecurity may lead to the development of paranoia, shyness, and social withdrawal or it may alternately encourage compensatory behaviours such as arrogance, animosity, aggression or tormenting. Exposure to insecure environment erodes people’s self confidence, trust and belief in their capabilities. Even if situation changes for them, they fear that the current positive state is temporary and something bad might occur which will let them down and cause disappointment and distress.

Governments have fundamental obligation to secure their populace from security threats. These administrative commitments are, obviously, not absolute. However, when threats to social security assume a substantial scale among the general public, lives are taken or destroyed. "Security concerns" as an idea legitimately enters talk when safety threat predominance achieve levels that debilitate and upset economic activity, erode administrative power of the state, weaken governance and institutional functions and negatively affect a state's energy to influence externally. The failure of the related departments to address the national security concern has to do with the lack of capacity to address such issues, failure to admit this shortcoming and apathy towards this existential need of the nation. One such example is the non-functionality of the National Security Council and the minimal implementation of national security policy. The price for this neglect is paid by the general public and the sense of individual and collective anxiety is on the rise. As per psychological theoretical understanding, insecure individuals find it difficult to actualize growth tendencies, are overly defensive and most of their capabilities such as intelligence, creativity, tolerance, autonomy, self regulation are in disharmony and their full functioning is hampered. If this insecurity is part of personality of a leader, then the leader is self-serving than the nation.

Having highlighted the issues of national security and its impact on individual psyche, some suggestions are now presented which may contribute to ameliorate the situation. First and foremost, it is important to realize and hence admit that the issues regarding security and safety have been dealt with inadequately. A concentrated effort towards planning and implementation of national security policy should be geared as a priority. Safety and security has many facets as mentioned above. Each requires separate specialized attention, policy making, planning, legislation, execution and post execution assessment/evaluation.

Second, our leadership capacity requires serious enhancement. Laws should be enacted to make it mandatory for the political leadership to continuously undergo personal development trainings and programmes. Elements of spiritual concepts such empathy, selfless service, social responsibility, altruism etc. should be adopted and manifested through behaviour. It has been observed that leaders who have the capability to transform humans, are high in social, emotional, spiritual and academic intelligence. However, if a leader who performed average academically, but had been high on other forms of intelligence have also been much effective in motivating humans.

Third, terrorism is a vast subject and a global concern. It is the biggest menace each one of us has to live with on daily bases. Neither have we been proactive in dealing with the ideology of terrorism, and as a result, depolarization of the radicals and prevention from future contamination of the suggestive minds have not been achieved. Although the military operation may bring temporary relief, it is the mindset and intra psychic dynamics of the terrorist personality that needs understanding. Depolarization should be viewed in the light of personal change which is an emotional, cognitive, behavioural and social process. It can be activated through psychotherapy and rehabilitation. The root causes such as poverty, lack of education as well as traumatic experiences should be remedied to prevent relapse. Expertise should be developed though higher education and training for the professions involved; any non expert intervention tantamount to further abuse and exacerbation of the problem.

Fourth, lack of social justice insemination and the lack of protection as well as maltreatment by custodians of the civil administration such as police has further added to the common man’s insecurities. The mentioning of police reforms have surfaced several times in the media, however no considerable progress became visible over the period of time. Army, being the most organized institute in the country, could be involved and joint training of police and army recruits could be instituted with providence of same facilities for the police force. Strict code of ethics as well as accountability procedures followed by remedial training may address the issues.

The purpose of this article is to bring to light the emotional suffering of the people of this country due to non-secure environment. In the absence of any relevant measures and guideline, people feel confused and clueless as to what to do about the deteriorating state of affairs. Anger amongst the masses is high and instead of finding creative solutions, the general trend is to take confrontational dogmatic stance against each other which results in further conflict. When people are defensive, they take rigid views of situations to the exclusion of other’s ideas. As a result, divide widens and people are further pushed down the quagmire. If challenges are not taken on and solutions are procrastinated, they gain mass (examples of these dynamics can be witnessed when there is a political, religious, ethnic or ideological clash and people resort to annihilate each other). When humans are stuck, frustrated, confused, low, broken, lacking trust and confidence etc., they are far from constructive ideas and exercising creative potential. In such states, they need support and direction for removing internal blocks and resistances hence enabling themselves to move on and actualize endless possibilities. Clarity comes through managing grievances in a manner which results in resolution of the conflict. When more people feel resolved they gear up towards creating the opportunities which bring prosperity.

We need to invest in our nation’s health holistically. Where there is respect and acceptance for physical health problems, mental / psychological health requires same treatment and attention. It is the deficit of psychological health in individuals which has contributed to the constantly deteriorating state of security and safety. Our health ministry and private sector should invest and encourage facilities where tolerance and self-containment is taught. Personality growth programmes and trainings can also be offered besides other forms of therapeutic support. On a larger scale, our objective should to be to address the issues of national security and safety at the primary, secondary and tertiary level employing both proactive and reactive interventions.

According to Humanistic School of Psychology, humans have an innate capacity to grow. When the environment is conducive, people feel safe and their sense of security is enhanced. Secure people are able to incorporate ideas, find novel, creative practical solutions, have a purpose in life, contribute socially, look after themselves, can regulate emotions and work towards personal autonomy. The sooner we invest in the psychological world of human resource the quicker we would observe change.

The writer is a consultant psychologist, counsellor and psychotherapist who also worked as a stress therapist, relaxation advisor and meditation consultant in clinical setting, Chicago Illinois, U.S.A.
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