We All React to the Violence

I have been following the February 14 shooting at NIU closely, waiting for solid information to come through. There have been many, many articles released, all rehashing the same few known points. I don't know what it is that I'm looking for in all those articles. None of them will ever undo the tragedy, or explain why this is yet another instance of the senseless violence that seems to have taken hold of our country.

I realized that I need to step back and identify all the things I have been feeling these last few days. You may have been feeling things without knowing why. Maybe you are feeling a general sense of unease. Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, we're all more susceptible to traumatic events, no matter how far from us they may be, because our resilience diminishes with each additional instance. The effects are cumulative. Identifying these feelings will help us move forward again. Here's a few feelings I've identified. I hope it helps you identify yours:

I feel overwhelmed. A week ago, tornadoes hit and destroyed whole communities around me. Shootings happened in a department store, a city council meeting and a technical college. A sugar refinery blew up and a grade teacher was stabbed. On top of this, the country falls into recession and prices continue to go up. Now there's another college shooting and a deadly illegal street race. Every hour, the headlines change, so I have to read to see if anything new has come to light. In reading these 'new' articles, I find the same things I've read a hundred times said in maybe a slightly different way. If there is anything new, it's one minor sentence buried deep within the article. If I drag myself away from the computer, the news is all over the TV and the radio. I am bombarded.

I feel angry and helpless. I feel angry because I feel helpless. There is no rhyme or reason behind the violent things people do. One of the articles I read said the NIU shooter "didn't fit the profile" with the retort that there really wasn't a profile. Yes, there is a psychological profile of violent offenders. Why mislead? Not that it matters. Is there any explanation that would make the shooting any easier to understand? No, I don't think so. So many more people in grief!

I feel terrified of the loss. Life isn't so normal anymore. It is no longer safe to shop or go to school or go to college or even stand on the side of the road. I have friends with children in school and in college, and my son works in a large store. I am terrified for all of them. And, is it me, or is the weather a lot more wild and crazy nowadays? The places where I can feel safe are a lot fewer now.

All of these feelings have had an impact on me. The result is a kind of numbness, a feeling of detachment not only from the things around me, but from me. How I broke through the haze was writing this post. I made myself do something, be productive. I can move forward again.

I found a book called "Bearing Witness: Violence and Collective Responsibility" that deals with traumatic, violent events in depth. I'll be writing more about this in the days to come. In the meantime, take a few moments to honestly identify your feelings. Just doing that is a big step toward healing.

Thanks for reading.

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