I Read The News Today, Oh Boy

Asking For It with Sibyl

Dear Sybil,

What is twisting my gut is what is also twisting the gut of the nation. My issue is that I am so very, very sensitive to human-caused tragedies, so much so that even a headline can send me toward panic-attack-ville. I've dealt with this by avoiding the news in general (my husband keeps me up to date on disturbing events using gentler wording buffered on either end with a hug) but I still want to be in the know.

Also, avoiding Facebook is much more difficult than avoiding the news; and so I see articles that friends post that I shouldn't click but sometimes do. I am repulsed, deeply saddened and deeply scared by tragedy, but also curious about how terrible things happen (and how I can avoid raising a child that would act in those terrible ways.)

How can I honor my tender self but still stay informed and educated?  Maybe there are others in the same boat that would benefit from some words of wisdom!

Thank you,


Dear Tender-oni,

When a tragedy of this magnitude rocks our nation, every sentient person feels it in some way.  It sounds like you have the beautiful yet difficult experience of being someone extra attuned to the fragility of life, which means you need to take even more care to be kind to yourself and others in the wake of the Boston bombings.

Hearing tragic news is really unsettling, and it takes us out of our bodies.  The most important thing to do is to get grounded, connect yourself to the earth, and back in your corporeal being.  Wherever you are right now, feel your feet on the floor beneath you.  Imagine there is a connection between the soles of your feet down to the core of the earth, and that a vibration of light is running up through you, lengthening your spine out through the crown of your head.  Put your hands on your thighs, and press.  Then place your hands on your belly and breathe deeply, in and out, until you can feel your breath steadying, and you feel connected to all your limbs from your center.

Now that you are grounded, go ahead and let yourself feel whatever you are feeling.  If you're sad and need to cry, let the tears roll down.  If you are angry and need to punch a pillow, or yell into a cup, do that.  If you are scared and need to call your loved ones, please do.  Let them know you love them and you need them right now.

It is okay to try to get the truth about what happened, to allow your brain to make as much sense as possible of such mind-boggling violence.  However, with all the ways of receiving news now available to us, choose wisely.  First of all, avoid visual and aural news.  Receive your facts in words, in the form of complete sentences.  It is impossible to un-see images of bodies mangled, and to un-hear screams and cries.  News that has already been filtered through the brains of professionals into sentences are designed to inform you in the least traumatizing way possible.  Therefore, if you must follow the news, read it in article form, and don’t sign up to be notified every time events unfold---be as in charge as possible of when/how you receive the latest updates.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help if you are indeed having panic attack symptoms.  Call your therapist, or if you don’t have one, contact Disaster Distress, a program of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Support Administration: http://disasterdistress.samhsa.gov/  You can call 1-800-985-5990 toll-free to talk with a crisis counselor, who can help you deal with the normal reactions to such troubling events.  There is nothing wrong with you if you are having triggering responses to such horrifying acts---it just means you are human.

Being human sometimes means being scared, but it also means being able to love.  Do something today that makes you feel really alive, and connects you to the love in your life, and the kindness of humans.  You have to counterbalance the horror with reminders that we are all held together with heartstrings.  This may be as small as creating some art to immerse yourself in beauty, or as large as volunteering to help others even more in need than you are.

I don’t know how long it will take, or what will transpire before we get there, but love will win.  I have had too many wonderful experiences with humans to discount them in the face of tragedy and say “people are terrible.”  I don’t believe that.  Some people are sick and need help and love, so that they can see how alike we all really are, and that there is something of value in each of us.

There will come a day that we will all look in one another’s eyes and see our own spark staring back at us.  In order to make this vision a reality, to end violence everywhere, we have to let the love we hold in our hearts wash over all we come into contact with, until it is a tidal wave, consuming the fear and leaving us ashore at last.



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