Trauma Response to Witnessing Events
Witnessing the insurrectionary riot on the US Capitol is traumatic.
Vicarious trauma is when our nervous system responds to seeing or hearing about a traumatic event as if it’s happening to us directly.
There have been many of these moments in 2020 with the murders of black people, including transgender women, fires, earthquakes, and the life-threatening dangers of this pandemic.
Based on our evolutionary history, our body automatically takes over when there’s perceived danger to protect us from harm.
Sometimes it goes into fight, flight, freeze or fawn mode even when danger isn’t present but we’re triggered by something that’s happening to us or events we imagine.
Knowing these signs can help us understand our responses and begin ways to self-regulate
1. Fight or 2. Flight
Our natural and physiological reaction to perceived danger can be to fight (with words or actions) or flee the situation to remove ourselves from harm.
If we don’t believe fighting or fleeing a dangerous situation will work to keep us safe, we can freeze, isolate, or otherwise shut down to protect ourselves from harm.
Another reaction to perceived danger, can be to appease others by accommodating their needs, avoiding conflict, and overly caring for others at the expense of meeting our own needs.
After danger is no longer present, if it ever was, we can use grounding techniques to bring us back to the present moment, like coming back to our breath and bringing awareness to our five senses.