The history of Black people is complex, intriguing, triggering, and traumatizing. It began when we were transplanted from our native land and forced to build America from the ground up. From slavery to segregation to our now “free” world, we’ve endured so much pain that’s been transmuted into resilience. Despite our long, tumultuous history, we’re still striving for the ability to exist in the same way that our Caucasian counterparts do.
Our need for equality shows up every time an unarmed person of color is murdered by law enforcement. In the wake of the Derrick Chauvin trial, the world is wondering why a jury is needed to determine the fate of a man who was caught murdering George Floyd in broad daylight on camera. During this trial, I intentionally decided to disconnect from the media. In general, I think re-traumatizing myself by watching movies about slavery or documentaries about racism is counterproductive. Because I knew that watching this trial would be a trigger for me, I decided to skip the entire thing to preserve my mental health.
Today is the second anniversary of George Floyd’s death, and we continue to endure unbearable trauma. Mass shootings have increased at an alarming rate, and yesterday’s shooting at an elementary school in Texas has put us all over the edge. This month alone, we’ve endured 44 mass shootings that have impacted the lives of so many people nationwide. While stronger gun laws are the immediate answer, what can we do to preserve our spirit?
How does detaching from trauma help our mental health?
Detaching from trauma doesn’t mean that we don’t care, but it allows us to tend to our mental well-being before we take on the emotional weight of being a Black person in today’s world. Advocacy and awareness are important, but how effective can you be if you’re mentally drained? We spoke to a few licensed mental health professionals who explained the importance of turning off the television and focusing on self to help preserve your mental health.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Shallimar Jones encourages limiting your intake of anything that will disrupt your spirit. “With trauma, no matter the type, it is important to, as I call it, ‘protect your peace.’ This means being mindful of what you are taking in, be it the things on tv, social media, or even directly with people in your life regarding certain topics of conversation. No matter the verdict (clearly we hope it is a conviction), you still must be a parent, partner, worker, etc. So if that means you need to limit your media intake, take the day off, etc., protect your mindset and emotions. Because once that is invaded, it is very difficult to get back. This is why emotional intelligence so so key! Recognize what you feel, manage it, and apply it in your life.”
Educational/Developmental Psychologist Dr. Attallah Brightwell, Ph.D., says not detaching damages our mental health. “I have recommended to my Black family members and friends to detach completely from mainstream media during the coverage of traumatic and racist judicial proceedings. The system in the United States of America was organized to exterminate Black people so JUSTICE will NEVER work in our favor. The extensive and continuous viewing of such information damages our emotional, mental, and subconscious health.”
Paula Martin, licensed counselor and CEO of Flip da Script says we have to detach from things beyond our control. “Life is so short, and we can’t spend our time getting worked up over things that are out of our control. What affects your mental health affects your overall being. The media is doing what it’s designed to do – put information out there and get you worked up. It’s up to us to choose how we filter it. Despite the protesting on George Floyd’s behalf, murders continued to happen. This is why we must preserve our energy and detach every now and then. It will only negatively affect you.”
Psychotherapist Felicia Fdyfil-Horne says take a step back, but make sure you take time to process. “As we all are experiencing collective grief, it is important to step back, process, and take the time to grieve when needed. Give yourself permission to detach, reset, and rest.”
Managing mental health is vital to our survival. Pouring energy into social injustices without taking time to disconnect and the process can produce high-stress levels, anxiety, fatigue, and more. Trauma is crippling. Take time to detach and regroup to preserve your spirit. We can’t control how law enforcement treats Black people, but we can control the flow of our energy cup.
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