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September 5, 2005

06 Sep
Posttraumatic stress comes from experiencing an intense combination of terror, helplessness and horror, but it can also come from helplessly watching someone else’s terror, helplessness and horror. .. some of us need to stop watching TV and start actively helping..
We know that posttraumatic stress comes from an intense combination of terror, helplessness and horror, so it’s certain there will be a lot of PTSD emerging from these terrible days on the Gulf Coast. It’s hard to watch.

It was also clear to me that the journalists and reporters, doing their jobs in front of the TV cameras, were feeling it too. They were suffering from their own brand of helplessness and horror at not being able to do anything (much) to alleviate the hideous suffering around them. Ditto for the National Guardsmen and truck drivers and medical personnel who couldn’t get to where they wanted to go to help people.

And for some of us watching TV, reading the papers and seeing the photos, this will have some adverse effects on us too, if we spend too much time just passively watching and reading. Depression and despair are just around the corner from too much helpless witnessing of horror.

So if you feel your mood starting to slide, or your energy level dip, you might want to get away from the media stories and go do something actively helpful - write a check, make some calls, send some supplies or organize some help. Do something. Don’t just stay glued to horror.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award