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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Katz, Psy.D

Earthquakes and Thunderstorms - Therapy and Counseling

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Therapy can help you navigate through terrifying novel experiences

I went to school and got my doctorate in Berkeley, California. During that process I lived in the San Francisco Bay area for five years. I have many fond memories of that part of the country.

Lately, California has been hit with a lot of rain, wind, and flooding. My heart goes out to all of those affected. Houstonians know all too well the devastation rain and flooding can bring.

These events bring to mind a funny story. I had been living in Berkeley for about a year or two when I experienced my first earthquake. I was in a room giving a lecture with about 30-40 other people, most of whom were Bay Area natives or had lived there for many years.

All of the sudden, a 3.7 earthquake hit. The floor was shaking, the walls were shaking. I was terrified. It quickly subsided with no real damage.

After 3-4 minutes, a few people loudly said something to the effect of “Alright, alright. It’s just a little earthquake. Everyone quiet down and let’s get back to the lecture.” I was noticeably shaken, but wanting to be professional, I quickly soothed myself and powered through my talk.

Afterwards, I talked to several people at the lecture. I was looking to process what I assumed was a minor collective trauma. To my surprise, most people were more interested in discussing the thunderstorm that occurred the night before!

I would say “Wow, that was my first earthquake. That was intense,” and I was often met with “Oh, yeah. That was a small one. Did you hear the thunder last night?” Someone else would say “Oh, man. It was so loud! I was so surprised; I must have jumped 2 feet in the air!”

I found myself thinking “Thunder? What? Who cares? Did you not just feel the earth shake? The calm and stable thing that we walk on! That was shaking. Unpredictably and violently. I don’t care about thunder!”

I imagine someone would have responded with “oh, but did you hear the thunder? Such a loud boom!”

After several such conversations I was left somewhat bewildered. People continued to talk about the thunderstorm for the next few weeks, while only mentioning the earthquake in passing.

I later learned that thunderstorms a rare occurrence in that part of the country. It is often foggy and drizzles a lot, but there is not much heavy rain or thunder. I think there may have been (maybe not?) one other storm with some thunder during my five years there. In contrast, I think I felt five or six earthquakes (including aftershocks).

As a Houstonian, lightning and thunderstorms are commonplace. I am so used to them that I take for granted how disorienting and exciting they can be. I also have years of experience and knowledge for how to handle extreme weather conditions such as intense thunderstorms, lightning, flash flooding, hurricanes, and tornadoes.

A whole host of knowledge that is so deeply ingrained that I forgot that I learned all of this at some point. In fact, during the earthquake I thought, ‘Ok, interior room, basement, or bathtub for tornadoes. What the heck am I supposed to do during an earthquake?’

Being able to remember, with little effort, key bits of information and actions is one of the marvelous capacities of the human mind. My lived experience provides those memories.

I did not have much experience living in a place with earthquakes. So, I did some research and I learned. I learned what to do during an earthquake and how to prepare for one.

Many times throughout our lives we find ourselves in new places. Sometimes, we realize that we are not fully prepared for the challenges this can bring. A therapist can help you understand why these challenges are so difficult for you. As well as teach you the skills and guide you through the emotional experiences that will help you navigate a new terrain.

While each person and their storms/earthquakes are unique. You can be confident that you are working with an expert who has helped hundreds of people learn, grow, and adapt to their challenges.

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