Listening to these declarations, you’d never know that these ‘expert’ professionals are describing traumatic incidents. You’d never know that the ‘un-hurt’ people had just witnessed a murder, or other violent event, or had been held hostage by gun-wielding lunatics.
Pause and think about it:
By declaring ‘No one else was hurt” officials invalidate the reality of all those adversely affected by violence – namely, all of us.
Directly experiencing or witnessing violence has devastating psychological consequences. But the dramatic adverse impact of violence doesn’t stop with them.
Everyone who hears about the incident, or reads about it, or views it on tv, or drives by the scene, or lives in the area, hazards the risk of trauma. Everyone.
The chain of traumatic impact is endless. Those with prior experience with violence risk re-traumatization. Those exposed to chronic low-grade trauma risk reaching the tipping point. Even those blessed people ‘uninitiated’ into violence suffer: without their consent, they’re drawn into the hideous, dark, deranged, dangerous reality of violent acts by evil people.
Perhaps that’s why so many Americans suffer privately every day. Pronounced ‘unharmed’, we are shamed into hiding, left to struggle alone with the emotional and mental agonies of contemporary life’s horrors. Our world shrinks. Our activites become curtailed. Events we used to attend without a thought or care now feel riddled with risk.
All of which plague us with more negative affect. Bit by bit, news story by news story, we are pushed farther toward traumatic overload. Rather than feeling safer with each new day, with each new report of violence, we feel more at risk.
And further shamed by ignorant, callous statements from the mouths of ‘experts’.
For, implied in “no one else was hurt” are accusations.
Hey, get a grip, it didn’t happen to you.
What’s wrong with you, that you can’t shake this off?
And, the ultimate chiding: Go back to living like you used to.
Despite America’s admiration for resilience, the fact remains that humans are fragile creatures. Violence is traumatic. Trauma overwhelms human thinking, feeling and acting. It threatens and often paralyzes our capacity for coping. By definition, traumatic events occur outside the realm of acceptable human experience.
Traumatic events injure us in ways so varied and profound that many of us struggle for decades against the emotional and mental damage inflicted by these injuries. Others never put their trauma ‘behind’ them, forever living in a state of hyper-arousal, terror, depression, intrusive memories, limited lifestyles, and disrupted attachments.
‘Recovered’ or not, once we are traumatized, we are never the same. That’s how deep the trauma imprint is.
It’s not just what has happened that hurts us. With the ever-leering smirk of evil staring at us from our daily news, the expectation of impending violence hangs over all of us.
Picture a typical day in America, 2012. School children sit in a classroom, aware of – and trained for – the possibility that gun violence may erupt. Teenagers date, knowing full well the threat of sexual violence. Night after night, on cable tv, adults ingest megadoses of news of criminal violence – ‘antidoted’ by ads for home security systems. Violent ‘entertainment’ permeates and poisons every mode of our media.
Including product advertisements.
If you think I’m overstating the impact of violence upon our psyches, take a few moments to assess contenporary America’s emotional and mental reality.
Here’s the picture: depression, anxiety, unhappiness, rage, fear, helplessness, addiction and sleeplessness swamp our cities and towns.
Then, explain to me why so many Americans require sleep aids to sleep through the night. And anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety meds, all the day through?
Deny it we may, yet we cannot refute it: America suffers a massive, unreported, untreated epidemic. An epidemic of trauma.
But not to worry. Our professional spokespersons assure us: despite the violence all around us, if we physically survive, we all escape unharmed.
To the parents, children, siblings, spouses, friends, neighbors, co-workers, healthcare workers, school mates, and pastors of the 25,000 victims of violent crimes each week in America: hey, forget about it. None of you are hurt by what happens – correct?
None of you have a different view of your safety, as you walk out your door, or put your head on your pillow. None of you feel chronic anxiety, emotional and mental agony, grief, loss, or fear.
None of you chronically wish you could go back to the days when your world was not violated by the omnipresent evil energy of violence.
Television viewers, newspaper readers, drive-time news tuners: you aren’t hurt. What you watch, what you hear, doesn’t affect you at all. Nor you, who work in the media. Or the hospitals. Or the psych clinics.
Or the schools – and universities.
And oh, post-traumatic-stress-disorder sufferers: your fragile sense of re-built safety isn’t threatened, is it?
Of course not.
After all, those ‘in-the-know’ – those who sport fancy credentials and official titles – know for a fact: “No one else was hurt.”