How do you reconnect?
Welcome to our April Newsletter.
It’s spring, and many of us feel exhausted, detached, and quite tired. It’s been a long two years now. So this month, I intend to understand why we disconnect and sometimes even dissociate from the overwhelming messages we access online and through our friends. Why do we choose to disengage from the news? Why do we prefer a state of inertia over a healthy connection with balanced, curated access to trusted sources and to…well, facts? And when does this connection feel simply too much to carry?
I think we chose inertia because connecting with reality can sometimes be too much to deal with. Images from the war, COVID stats and (here in the UK) saddening signs of the impact of Brexit are heartbreaking, so it can be easier to switch it all off. Pretending that the pandemic is over is a coping mechanism. I think there is another reason: we are not used to the uncomfortable emotional state the difficult news evokes in us – we do not know how to deal with those emerging feelings.
So this month, I am writing about vicarious trauma – the secondary trauma we experience when we witness suffering (for instance, when we hear a victim of racism or other forms of abuse share their experience – even if we decide to detach emotionally, studies show that we feel it too). Depending on the profession, sometimes it is called “cost of carrying”, “compassion fatigue”, or “workplace burnout”. Burnout, however, is usually stress and secondary trauma that builds up over time.
Vicarious trauma is something I sometimes experience in my practice when supporting my clients with consultancy, coaching and counselling. So I hope what I share here will be helpful for you too.
I wish you a sunny, soft and steady April!
My favourite topic this month
This month I am reading a lot about liberation psychology (psychology of the oppressed):
If you have any links on the topic, do let me know!
Here is a one-page handout I have put together to remind myself how to care for the trauma of my clients and how to do so sustainably. It summarises the practical part of the fantastic book “Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others” by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky and Connie Burk. I strongly recommend the book as well.
Secondary trauma can result in:
- physical symptoms (exhaustion, problems with sleep, irritation, being in a constant state of nervous arousal, feeling jumpy and anxious),
- emotional symptoms (difficulty connecting with joy, gratitude and other positive feelings, emotional numbness, or even feeling trapped and hopeless),
- behavioural symptoms (changing and unhealthy eating habits, rejecting intimacy, avoiding being alone or withdrawing from friends, increased voice of the inner critic)
- interpersonal symptoms (withdrawal, avoidance, poor communication or anger and increased conflict),
- and decreased sense of connection with our core values and our sense of purpose.
The list goes on, but sometimes it can be difficult to notice them first. So it is essential to pay attention to how we are, brief our friends on our stress factors (we shouldn’t do this alone!) and have a menu of options to tackle this.
I hope the above resources are helpful.