Every therapist agrees that the impact of a traumatic event goes beyond physical damage. The emotional toll can result in a wide range of intense emotions and it takes time to recover emotional equilibrium. Being Black in America can be extraordinarily stressful. Being treated as “second class” citizen, called names, and being excluded shatter all sense of security, causing feelings of helpless and vulnerability in a dangerous world where feelings of anxiousness and uncertainty. These unsettling thoughts and feelings can only fade if life circumstances change. How to cope with feelings of injustice, racism and covert discrimination is a topic of debate in many Black American communities.
People react in different ways to traumatic events. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to think, feel or respond. The American public is intolerant of the reactions and feelings of Black Americans in Baltimore when they rioted protesting the murder of an unarmed Black American man. The city was put under curfew and the street activists were called “thugs”. There was no effort to send in counselors to help the “traumatized” people with the emotional event.
Persons who ignore feelings will slow the healing process; however, in the Black community, “forgive and forget” is the tenet. Following the killing of nine Black people in Charleston, South Carolina in a church during a prayer meeting by a young White American, statements of “we forgive him” were made before the dead was buried. That is not benevolence; that is denial.
The symptoms of traumatic stress include physical manifestations as well as emotional, such as, pounding heart, feelings of choked up, stomach churning, racing thoughts, raised blood pressure, headaches and difficulty sleeping.
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