Heavy-hearted, I am republishing this blog post in response to today’s shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. Please take good care of yourselves and your loved ones as best you can, and consider these cautions to mitigate the ripple effects of this tragedy.
After crimes like this, we are all at heightened risk of vicarious traumatization from immersion in detailed news reports. Remember what it was like after 9/11. Remember how we learned later that some children were traumatized by the replayed images of the planes hitting the towers; to their young minds, the event was happening over and over.
Adult minds are susceptible in some ways to the same effect. For some people, repeated exposure to graphic reports can create psychological trauma, even though the person wasn’t directly involved in the experience. As the news reports of this event continue to roll in, I suggest you take these precautions:
- Limit your exposure to news reports of this crime. Do NOT read every story or watch every video. This might require turning off the TV and disconnecting from social media for a day or two, or more.
- Make a strong, conscious effort NOT to visualize the events described. For some people, picturing it can overwhelm your ability to maintain your own sense of safety. If you are a person who prays or meditates, avoid picturing the events during your prayers or meditation. You can pray or meditate effectively without visualizing the violence of this event.
- If you experience anxiety over this event that interferes with your life (e.g. trouble sleeping, eating, working), talk to someone–a counselor, spiritual advisor, mentor, or understanding friend. Understand that it is possible to be harmed at a distance by events like this. If it happens to you, don’t ignore it.
If you empathize with victims of events like this, you might feel it is your duty to “bear witness,” to follow the news and to hear and see the accounts of the tragedy. This is untrue. It is NOT your duty to experience this. Please, protect yourself from vicarious harm.