Every time you turn on the news, it seems to be about another disaster. In the last few months, there have been multiple hurricanes, an earthquake, a mass shooting and wildfires. All of these events have caused major pain and destruction in people’s lives. Just listen to the radio or watch the news. All you hear or see are descriptions and pictures of people’s lives turned completely upside down. Because of this emotional overload there is debate and discussion about whether people are becoming desensitized to trauma and the pain of others. People wonder how much more destruction can we actually endure? They ask why this is happening. The idea of this happening to us is enough to cause emotional overload which leads to being numb. The question becomes, is numbing out an emotional defense or a way to stop being in touch with other’s pain?
Why Do We Numb?
Numbing out is one way we can protect ourselves from being emotionally overwhelmed. It allows us to process our emotions one step at a time. This slow process is normal and appropriate when people are dealing with a major trauma. The goal is to keep moving through those painful emotions and not stay emotionally shut down. When we get stuck in our numbness, that is when it becomes a problem and leads to desensitization.
Am I Numb?
So, how can you tell the difference? Examine your emotional state and your behavior. Are you processing your feelings about what happened in small pieces or are you ignoring your feelings about it completely? Are you binge-watching the news for any and all information or are you avoiding any and all information about the situation? Are you feeling irritable, sad, tired, hopeless? Are you adopting an all or nothing attitude towards these traumatic events?
What Can I Do?
As with most things, we want moderation, to strike a balance. Ignoring the news completely gives us a false sense of security. Pretending it is not there does not make it go away; it simply delays the inevitable emotional response. Saturating our brains and senses with information of the trauma can cause us to feel depressed and hopeless which can lead to an inability to function in our daily lives. The goal is to acknowledge the events and give ourselves permission to respond emotionally in our own time. Some suggestions: getting an update on the days events, having a good cry or reading about one of the victims, sending a prayer or healing thoughts to them or their families or talking to a trusted family member or friend about what we are feeling.
Bottom line, it is important to maintain our daily lives in order to keep a sense of normalcy. Yes, tragic events occur. However, the healthiest the thing we can do is to acknowledge this fact and continue to live our lives. The best we can do is make plans for our future and live in the present, dealing with whatever life brings us.