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   Updated: Sunday, January 4, 2015 8:23 AM
 
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This is only part of what goes through the mind of a hostage. The rest is the stuff of nightmares. Those stuck inside the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Martin Place experienced “unimaginable horror” and hopelessness and would be forever changed by the experience. But they would in time grow from their ordeal, according to a trauma expert.

Associate Professor Jane Shakespeare-Finch from the Queensland University of Technology School of Psychology said the hostages would initially experience a mixture of horror, hopelessness and terror, as well as feeling a lack of safety and control.

She warned, though, that the shock of the 17-hour siege would have barely set in. “It is an incredibly difficult time,” she said.

“The people in the cafe have endured a horror that may change their lives forever.

“But they need to be allowed to let their natural coping strategies kick in and use the support from their families and friends.

“They will now be going through police interviews and all those processes. They won’t be able to process these events for quite some time.”

Her comments come just hours after Lindt cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34, and lawyer Katrina Dawson, 38, were named as the two innocent victims in the deadly siege, which also claimed the life of gunman Man Haron Monis.

Fifteen others were also caught up in the deadly encounter, with some managing to escape to safety yesterday in images relayed around the world.

According to Assoc Prof Finch, the hostages are likely to experience intrusive thoughts that “will hit them between the eyes”, along with flashbacks to the ordeal.

“Their whole bodies would have been in flight or fight mode,” she said.

Tori Johnson has been hailed as a hero for wresting the gun off Monis when he began to doze off early this morning.

“Some people can freeze and can’t move. Toward the end, the manager of the cafe was in fight mode, others ran as soon as they could,” Assoc Prof Finch said. “They will be easily startled, hyper-vigilant, and may find it difficult to relax or sleep. It will take time for the brain to process what’s happened, to just be able to get to a place to say, ‘This has happened and accept I have been part of the situation’.”

She added it would not only affect the hostages but would also have a ripple effect on friends, family and others for some time to come.

“The walls felt like they were caving in”: THE HOSTAGE VICTIM

Kathryn Adams knows only too well the horror of living through a hostage situation.

The Sydney woman was working at a Community Legal Centre in 2012 when she experienced an event that would change her life forever.

Ms Adams, now the principal solicitor of KVA & Associates Lawyers, said the incident happened lightning-fast. “(There is) no way that you can pinpoint the time in which you become aware that the violent situation has started, to the realisation that you are in danger,” she said.

For her, the horror started after she allowed a homeless woman into the office who needed advice about an outstanding warrant.

What followed was beyond her worst nightmare.

“The door to the small meeting room of my law office was slammed shut, and a 15cm knife was produced,” Ms Adams said.

“At first, I could not take my eyes off the knife. My eyes could only focus on the weapon that was being held at my body. After a few seconds, I then became very aware of my surroundings. “The meeting room was only small. The walls started to feel like they were caving in. I realised I had very little room I had to move. The realisation hit me that all of a sudden: I had absolutely no control of the situation that I had found myself in.”

She said the assailant then began making loud demands but she just remained frozen, gripped by blind panic and unable to move.

It wasn’t until the police arrived that Ms Adams began to think it might be OK. “Nothing can describe the feeling that comes over you when you see those men and women in uniform,” she said.

“An indescribable peace comes over you and you realise that the very people you need the most in this very situation you are facing are there, right outside that door, to protect you. You remember that these people have been highly trained to do exactly what you need them to do for you. The relief of seeing those men and women in uniform is a feeling that I will never forget.”

She remembers police asking her to calm down as they communicated with her through a small window. She also remembers doing exactly as she was told.

“You become a robot. You do not question why. You just do as they say,” she said.

// .image-frame Anxiety may prevent them from working and living as they used to do. Source: Getty Images // .caption // .image-block // .module-content // .module .image-module .module-image-freeform

“I did not cry. I did not speak. I just quietly said to myself that I was simply a passenger in a situation that I had no control over, and that the police would take care of everything.”

Ms Adams said the police did take care of everything and fast as they stormed the room, tackled the woman and took the weapon off her.

It was only then the enormity of the situation hit her and she realised how close she had come to death.

And despite moving on from her ordeal, she said she could never really get over being a hostage.

“You never forget the violence, the fear, the terror,” Ms Adams said.

“However, you do also remember the calm and certainty that comes over you when you see the police in their uniforms. Your belief in them assisting you remains steadfast and, when the situation is over, you forever carry a respect for law enforcement who put their lives in danger to protect yours.”

“People’s reactions can vary enormously, we shouldn’t pass judgement”: The Psychologist Sydney psychologist Karel Wearne told news.com.au that the hostages would probably feel numb for some time, after such an extreme experience. “The immediate reaction is usually shock and a surreal feeling of being out of touch with reality,” she said. “They might not be able to sleep, and have dreams and flashbacks, reliving the event. “Often post traumatic stress disorder doesn’t kick in immediately, it can be two or three months. In a way, there’s a period of adjustment from a traumatic incident. “Because there was death, and the threat of death, it can feel very unreal, and take a while to feel real. “There’s that anxiety, ‘Will it happen again?’ They may feel a reluctance to come into work and into the city. “They may feel uneasy around people who look like the perpetrator. They may not want to do some things. “That can develop into depression — depending on age, personality and previous experience. “Some people have a natural resilience, and life experience and age are important. For some people, this may be the first time anything bad has happened to them.

“People’s reactions can vary enormously and we shouldn’t pass judgement on that. They’re trying to make sense of it.

“You might expect to be in a car accident one day, but you wouldn’t expect this, it’s completely out of the blue — especially in this city.

“Hopefully they’ll be looked after medically and by counselling staff.

“They should talk to friends and family, not make it bigger than it was and know they will feel odd for a some time.

“As soon as they are well enough they should try to get back to what is normal; that’s important if they can do it.

“Those who were there at 2am will find that difficult, presuming they saw everything.

“Anyone with injuries will have physical reminder. But a mental injury doesn’t go away as quickly as that.

“Anxiety’s about imagination: we project into the future and predict it’ll happen again. It keeps us safe, it’s a natural reaction in a way to protect ourselves.

“Depression has a slower onset, but it can manifest as a lack of motivation, irritability, moods you can’t get out of. Anxiety is more hyper and depression is hypo, you want to stay in bed and you’re angry at everyone.

“That will have a vicarious effect on people who you’re around, and family members. It’s a ripple effect. And then people start playing the blame game.”

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