As I reflect on the violence that took place in Orlando, I am struck by the myriad of emotions that come up for me…particularly the depth of my sadness. There are no words that could quite capture how sad I feel for everyone who lost their lives in a place where they felt safe and joyful. To the LGBTQIA community, I am sending you so much love and support during this difficult time. To the Muslim community, I am saddened by the bigotry that is being further perpetuated and am sending you support as well. My hope is that we can work collectively together to get through another tragedy.
As a psychologist, activist, partner, and human being, I am mostly concerned about how we got to a place where we feel that it is ok to dehumanize and violate one another through our language and behaviors. The repetition of the violence we have witnessed in only these last few years makes me question a few things: 1) How do we as mental health professionals make mental wellness more accessible to people? 2) How can we provide spaces for people to have more dialogues about difference? and, 3) What are some ways in which we can be proactive during these traumatic events?
I acknowledge that this event is traumatic for many reasons, and also acknowledge that some of us have become so accustomed to violence that it just becomes a part of what we hear in the news and move on with our lives. Intellectually, I know that this is a way of coping, and at the same time it worries me to see how we are unable to be moved by what is happening.
For those of you who are feeling disempowered by these experiences, my hope is to validate you, and offer some suggestions I use myself and share with my clients when things are feeling “out of our control.”
Step1: Check in with yourself. Ask yourself how you are feeling and allow yourself to experience these emotions fully. Engaging in this experience helps to bring clarity without being “reactive” to others.
Step 2: Breathe. Literally bring awareness to your breath to slow down the pace of your thoughts. Trauma brings on a myriad of emotions and racing thoughts only accentuate the experience of these feelings. Take time to slow them down and notice how you feel.
Step 3: Reach out for support. On social media platforms, we are bombarded with opinions that are different from ours, which may illicit reactions that sometimes leave us feeling more vulnerable and unheard. Talk to the people you trust so that you can feel validated in your experience.
Step 4: Take action. If you are concerned about how to be helpful in this situation or any issue/cause you care about, chances are there are ways to be helpful. Taking action by donating to a cause, volunteering, contacting our senators (https://www.nysenate.gov/find-my-senator ) and congressmen/women (http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ ) to demand legislative action etc. can help us feel empowered and in control and not stagnated by our emotions.
I hope you can find some peace today.