Life after the Events of Shock, Horror, and Mayhem

When do we as a society say, “We are sorry for neglecting our responsibilities as a whole in protecting and preventing social deviant behaviors in becoming a norm.” Research has shown that the more empathetic people are, the more they experience these worldview-altering effects. Perhaps this is why a lot of caretakers, humanitarian workers, physicians, nurses, and psychologists — people who over time witness others’ suffering — burn out. Vicarious trauma makes us feel connected to events even though they might not personally touch us. It explains why many experience sadness, depression, anxiety, and even fear when these events happen. When we care deeply about others, we tend to become jaded by the erosive properties of such events and begin to see the world as a scary place filled with dangerous people. Self-protection may start to feel more important than human connection, than reaching out and helping others. It’s easy to find one thinking more about “me” than “we.” We’ve seen a lot of this in the last decade, as we’ve seemly become less trusting of one another and more pessimistic as a society.

Post-traumatic growth does not make light of the terrible, life-altering effects of trauma. Trauma leads to suffering, period. There is nothing inherently positive or indispensable about atrocities, violence, disasters, or loss. Nonetheless, with post-traumatic growth, some survivors say they become closer to those they love, experience an increased commitment to the goals they pursue, an increase in personal strength, enriched sense of spirituality, or greater appreciation of life. Even while causing immense suffering, trauma can turn people’s sights toward what they value most in life.

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