What to do when tragedy strikes

What do we do when the illusion of control or security is removed by a tragedy? When chaos strikes, especially human-caused chaos, we can have many responses.

Figuring out “why” is the booby prize.  When we try to analyze why something happened, we often are stuck in an intellectual pursuit of a solution to an emotional problem.  The response to a tragedy is emotional.  Here are a few of the different responses:

  1. We can drudge up our own unfinished business and make the drama our own.  For example, I knew someone who was incapacitated for a week after 9/11 and this person knew no one who was involved, or even anyone who lived in New York or Washington DC.  We were all affected by 9/11, but becoming paralyzed only adds gasoline to the drama fire and truly makes it “all about me.”  This is a tool of distraction and prevents true connection.
  2. We can deny the impact that it has on us.  When a large-scale event happens, there is a disturbance in the force.  Simply pretending that it didn’t happen is another way of checking out.
  3. We can go into it.  We can bear witness to the tragedy, the effect that it had on us, feel it deeply, and move on.  One of the best and easiest ways to move on is to go seek out someway to be helpful to another being.

Sometimes, we employ a cocktail the above responses.  We add a little drama, a little denial, and then finally are able to feel it proportionally, removing judgment, and allowing for our humanity to shine through.

Your Turn:

Can you accurately assess how you respond to tragedy?  Whether it is your own, or a collective turbulence, are you able to face it fully and then move on?  If not, are you able to forgive yourself and ask what would better serve you?

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