Interview: Japanese, Waiting in Line for Hours, Follow Social Order After Quake

An excerpt from Counselors Without Borders Dr. Fred Bemak for ABCNews.


SENDAI, Japan, March 15, 2011

“Few other places in the world have had the accumulation of history as Japan,” said Fred Bemak, professor of psychology at George Mason University who has experience in cross-cultural counseling in Asia. He founded the group Counselors Without Borders, which responds to international disasters.  

“When you top that with the earthquake in Kobe, there has been historical trauma through the generations and experiences in very severe and dramatic loss and death,” Bemak said. “There’s a whole intergenerational psychology of resilience.” The world had not yet seen the public face of grief that Bemak said will emerge when the Japanese have ceremonials for the thousands of dead. “Japan is the most prepared country in the world and that’s no accident,” he said.  “It’s part of the national proof — we are in shape to handle this.” Part of the much-described Asian culture of “saving face” is coping, according to Bemak.  “Expression of grief is culturally driven. Right now there are no burials going on because there is too much chaos. It’s, how can I find water and I need food for my mother or my child. It’s the survival instinct,” he said. “The deep pain and grief come after, when the ceremonial mourning begins.”

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