"I didn't know I was so traumatized. Until I couldn't turn on the news.
I couldn't read any more articles. And recorded videos I could no longer view.
I didn't know I was so traumatized."
The lines above are an excerpt from a poem I wrote titled, “I Didn’t Know.” I had to find a way to release some of the emotions I felt after viewing or hearing the countless tragic videos of members of our community that seem to come out every week. I felt overwhelmed, so I pulled on my counselor training and I found a way to cope. Fortunately, I am a counselor and could find a way to cope, but what about you? How do you handle emotions that can be so painful? What do you do when you witness a seemingly unjust act committed against someone who may look like you or remind you of your daughter or your son, and it seems like the situation may not end justly? It is difficult not to become jaded, numb, desensitized or angry when you turn on the news or look on social media only to witness another traumatizing event. The reality is many of us suffer secondary trauma whenever we hear of such tragedy, and many are angry.
Anger is a secondary emotion that masks a primary emotion such as hurt, fear or sadness. We tend to resort to anger because it can be uncomfortable to express and admit vulnerability. However, can we be honest for a minute? Many people view being vulnerable as weakness. Because of that, there are so many who cannot even be honest with themselves (let alone others) when they are hurt, scared, or sad. Are you angry? What is the primary emotion that your anger is masking? It is healthy to say you are hurting. There are times when it is normal to feel scared. It is appropriate to feel saddened when you see mistreatment of people! The question becomes what are you doing with your pain, sadness and anger?
Anger is a powerful emotion that can be a driving force in a positive or negative way. Some allow their anger to control them; while others control their anger. Truthfully, injustice is systemic and will not be solved overnight. That does not mean we cannot be influential in change. Some of the greatest changes we have experienced as a people have been because those with different gifts, callings, talents and passions were willing to be active and vocal. We are a resilient culture. We are creative. We are passionate. My encouragement to you is that you examine yourself and ask how you can turn your anger into purpose for your family, community and culture. Do not allow pain to harden and infect your personality, character or morals. Instead, do something productive that will produce positivity, truth and light. Use that energy and put it into something that will bring healing, individually and collectively.
Dr. Dharius Daniels once said in one of his sermons, “Don’t allow your pain to become a part of your personality.” It seems appropriate to reiterate his statement in a time when many of us in the Black community have questions about why we continue to endure senseless violence and senseless loss. Know that it is OK to seek help for yourself and talk to a professional because there is wisdom in seeking wise counsel.
Ciera Jackson, a licensed clinical social worker, has a Master of Social Work and is a counselor at The Well Counseling and Consulting Group. Contact her at thewellcounselinggroup.com or 317-471-8996.