In the wake of recent events in Ferguson and with the anniversary of the attacks of September 11th just passing, I was reminded of a lesson I learned in undergraduate studies; not learned in a classroom but in the hallways. September 11th, or other traumatic events such as the Kennedy assassination, I will always remember where I was when the attacks of September 11th occurred.

I was on my way to an early morning class like normal unaware that anything had happen, but as soon as I got to a common area the massive amounts of people gathering around TVs was over-powering and telling. There they were-the towers falling over and over flashed across the screen. I remember some people crying, others hugging each other, hearing people calling loved ones on their phones. All intense reactions to one single event which had occurred 1000s of miles away.

More and more psychologists are looking at the effects of media on traumatic events. What they have found is that people who had only watched images of the event had similar reactions to those who had experienced it personally (Eyre, 2014). Knowing that we may need redefine our idea of trauma and be aware of our own reactions and signs and symptoms of stress and/or trauma.

The Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (ECMHC, 2014) defines trauma as “the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless and vulnerable in a dangerous world.” By this definition, many can and have expressed trauma virtually as well as in person. In either case it is important to be aware of signs/symptoms of emotional and psychological trauma.

They can include:
• Shock, denial, disbelief
• Anger, irritability, mood swings
• Guilt, shame, self-blame
• Feeling sad or helpless
• Confusion, difficult concentrating
• Anxiety and fear
• Withdrawal from others
• Feeling disconnected or numb
• Insomnia or nightmares
• Easily startled
• Racing heartbeat
• Aches and pain
• Fatigue
• Edginess
• Muscle tension
Being aware of what influences our reaction and what we are reacting to are the first steps to realizing if they are overwhelming us. With the onslaught of technology, information, images, videos, etc. are everywhere. To what degree are they affecting you?    How are you coping with the media exposure that you currently have right now?  What are you doing to unplug yourself from the influence that media is having in your daily life?

Eileen Henry is the Graduate Counseling Intern with in the Stepping Stones program at Step By Step Counseling, LLC.