How To Cope With The Psychological Trauma Of A Mass Shooting
Updated: Dec 13, 2021
When tragedies like mass shootings occur, most of us struggle to make sense of it. How could something so terrible happen? What would cause another human being to do such a thing? And how can we move on with the knowledge that this latest mass shooting most likely won’t be the last?
After a traumatic event, it is common to experience emotions such as shock, anger, sadness, and fear. Many people, especially young children, experience trouble sleeping and concentrating. While it may seem your life will never get back to normal, there are things you can do to cope and find emotional relief.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
During this time, it is important that you are honest with yourself about your feelings. Shoving them down may seem like the only way to function, but in the long-run, ignoring your emotions will only make things worse.
Take some time each day to connect with whatever it is you are feeling. Allow your reaction to your own feelings to flow through you and do not judge yourself.
Let Go of Your Need to Control
One of the reasons people have such powerful reactions after a major tragedy is because it reminds all of us that we don’t have as much control over our lives as we like to think we do. While it may seem counterintuitive, it is important to let go of this need to control every aspect of our lives. If we don’t, we end up feeling like failures on top of our other coping emotions.
Each day, try and practice what is called by many as “radical acceptance.” Accept and acknowledge that the world isn’t as safe as you’d like it. Accept and acknowledge that you cannot control every aspect of your life. When you do this, you feel a sense of calm and peace, as if you have just laid down a heavy weight and burden.
Try to Rely on Logic
After a tragedy, it is very easy to become so fraught with emotions that we lose all sense of logic and reasoning. Logic and emotion are like Yin and Yang. Logic balances out our emotions to ensure we are perceiving our reality as accurately as possible.
Our emotions tell us the world is a dangerous place and we or our loved ones may become victims of a mass shooting. But logic would remind us that there are millions more people who have never and will never be the victim of a mass shooting.
If you feel panicky, take a step back from your emotions and your natural “fight or flight” response and logically evaluate the likelihood of personal danger in your life.
Speak with Someone
It is not always easy to deal with our emotions. They can sometimes seem overwhelming and leave us feeling helpless against them. In times like these, it’s a good idea to seek the help of a trained counselor who can offer tools and insights to cope.
If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment options, please reach out to me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.
Stephanie Post, PsyD. at Higher Self Psychotherapy specializes in anxiety therapy, depression therapy, self-esteem therapy, and in trauma therapy online anywhere in California and in the Marina neighborhood of San Francisco. She uses EMDR therapy, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, and IFS therapy to help clients thrive.