By many measures, this has been a tough week for the U.S., with violence dominating the headlines. And many Americans are now feeling a tension the nation hasn’t experienced in a long time.
It struck first with the deaths of two black men by police – one in Louisiana, and one in Minnesota – both of which were caught on video.
And it continued Thursday night when a sniper killed five law enforcement officers and injured seven others at a peaceful rally in Dallas.
So we wanted to take a step back from the headlines and and take a few minutes to dissect the potential emotional impact of these events on a more personal level.
WFDD’s Sean Bueter talked to Dr. Sam Gladding, who says even for those far away from Dallas or Baton Rouge, the pain can be real.
Male Speaker: This is 88.5 WFTD, public radio for the Piedmont. In the last couple of days, violence has been on the minds of many Americans. It struck first with the death of two black men by police, one in Louisiana and one in Minnesota, both of which were caught on video. And it continued last night when a sniper killed five law enforcement officers at a rally protesting those earlier deaths. It’s a tense national moment. And we wanted to take a step back to dissect the potential emotional impact of these events on a personal level. WFTD Sean Beuter talked with Dr. Sam Gladding, who says even for those far away from Dallas or Baton Rouge, the pain can be real.
Sam Gladding: There is such a thing as post-secondary trauma and I think I’m feeling that, I think a lot of people are feeling that. It comes with watching violence that has occurred that you know is real and we become much more anxious. We become much more aware, we feel less safe than we felt before.
Sean Beuter: How do you think this moment compares to other moments of national attention we’ve seen in the past few decades? I’m thinking of the weeks after 9/11 for example or even the turbulence of say 1968?
Sam Gladding: Well, I worked in 9/11 after that happened in New York City, and so I saw a lot of stunned and shocked people and sad people at that time. I think now we have some similar feelings going on that people wonder why this is happening. And the fact that we have such good news coverage these days, some people just become almost addicted to staying with these events and trying to make sense of it, even though that is a slow process, and sometimes it just doesn’t make sense.
Sean Beuter: Yeah, I mean I feel like I’ve seen a lot of folks on social media taking these last few days very hard and very personally I suppose. I mean is that the norm or do you think something has changed?
Sam Gladding: I’m not sure anything has changed. I think when we see violence, when we feel like it’s happening all around us, then we begin to take it personally and feel like, well is it safe here where I live because I’ve seen it in Louisiana, I’ve seen it in Minnesota, I’ve seen it in Texas. I’ve seen it all over the country and I really wonder is it safe here. Who would have thought these events would have happened in those places or in Orlando at a night club? That’s just not where you expect violence to take place.
Sean Beuter: When the public becomes personal, what are folks to do? What can we do when we might be feeling bad about the state of the nation, the state of the news, to successfully navigate these waters because they can be very difficult times to get through?
Sam Gladding: I think there’s several things we can do that are helpful. One is to be informed but not over-informed. And so if I’m going to listen or watch the news or read the news, limit it to a certain time each day. It’s like the internet. If you stay on it, you kind of become addicted. And if you overdo your exposure to the news, you become probably much more depressed and anxious than you would be. I think also connecting with people in positive ways is good. Playing games, sharing meals, seeing neighbors. These are all important things that we can and should do.
There’s a third thing I think that is helpful for most people and that is writing down their feelings. So, your feelings have no place to go, except to kind of keep bubbling up if you keep them inside and keep ruminating about them. So, sometimes just writing down what’s stressful is a very helpful thing to do.
Sean Beuter: And Dr. Sam Gladding is a long-time counselor and professor at Wake Forest University. Dr. Gladding, thank you so much for your time today, we appreciate it.
Sam Gladding: Thank you Sean.
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