Let’s talk about some things many people reading this saw and experienced growing up when it came to anger, violence, and bullying.
Some people reading this have first hand experience of how, one minute, someone might be smiling and laughing— and the next minute, be angry and on their way to hitting somebody.
Some people reading this have experienced watching violence happen— in a room full of people, none of whom did anything so stop it…or much of anything after it happened.
Some reading this have had the experience of, after someone has been assaulted, people opining that the assault was really the victim’s fault— that they were “asking for it,” or that the aggressor “had no choice” but to attack them.
Some reading this have had the experience of having a vicious “joke” made about them— and then being expected to either laugh along with it or pretend it wasn’t hurtful, because, what’s the matter, don’t you have a sense of humor?
All of which is to say: what many of us have been seeing and hearing discussed, over and over again over the last couple days, has layers— and many of those layers touch upon sensitive, triggering aspects of our personal history.
It’s not weird to be triggered by all of it.
It would be kind of weird to NOT be triggered by it.
Many of us grew up with a complicated relationship with anger and humor.
Our culture itself has a very complicated relationship with anger and humor.
We’re a culture that values “free speech”— though we’re constantly exploring and debating what it means to protect “free speech,” when certain speech can demonstrably (and needlessly) harm vulnerable people.
We’re a culture that values “personal responsibility”— though we’re constantly exploring and debating the limits of one’s personal agency when they’re exposed to stressors and triggers that they didn’t choose and may not be equipped to handle.
We’re a culture that values autonomy and choice— but in which it is virtually impossible to escape a viral clip of one person assaulting another person on live television, no matter how carefully we try to curate our social media feeds.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re having a reaction to the many discussions that are currently happening about violence, provocation, personal responsibility, and our cultural attitudes toward humor and boundaries.
Your mileage might vary about who, if anyone, you feel was “right” in the inciting event— and you might have some VERY strong feelings about what unfolded in the minutes and hours after that event.
It’s really, really important that you give yourself room to have and explore whatever feelings and reactions you ARE having.
Pay attention to what’s coming up for you.
Get curious— and compassionate— about what memories and feelings all this is scraping up.
Give yourself room to be confused or upset about both what happened, and other peoples’ strong reactions to it.
Staying present when we can’t seem to get away from a triggering image or video clip— or the endless discussion of a triggering event— can be really hard. Our nervous system may very much want to get some distance from it all by dissociating.
Yeah. Even though we weren’t directly involved, an event that’s in our face again and again can ABSOLUTELY trigger a dissociative response.
Easy does it. Remember your grounding skills. Go through your senses one at a time.
Talk yourself through the tough moments. Remind yourself of who, where— and even when— you are.
Our culture isn’t great at holding these conversations in a trauma-informed way— so we have to use our tools, skills, and supports to manage our own reactions. To stay as safe and stable as we can, even as triggering images and conversations swirl around us.
You can do this.
It might not be easy— but you can do this.