We have tumultuous weeks behind us, we can even say tumultuous years. War in the Middel-East, terrorism, climate change, racial battles, pandemic and now war in Europe with a nuclear threat. When one stress ends we think we can breathe again and get back to our old life rhythm. Then the next battle arrives and we feel anxious again. Last weeks I have been talking to many clients struggling with the new stress, the Ukrainian conflict. Even I noticed that it is hard to find the right coping when talking to Russian clients who are impacted by social judgment, traumatized Ukrainian refugees, even just friends, family, anybody having an opinion on the situation. We all have our anxiety and feel alone with it.
You are not alone
Some of us talk about it, others stay quiet and process alone. Some of us watch the news, make studies, others discuss it in groups, and some try to ignore all and choose to protect their feelings by “not wanting to know”. We have different ways of dealing with stress, but what works? What is the right way to not feel overwhelmed? To comfort our emotions? To define our best attitude when being confronted with a different opinion? To support another having extreme emotions? Even when those emotions are directed against us? How to avoid hate? We are not alone, and we need to solve this together as a community.
Feeling old traumas
It kept me busy this week. Seeing the provocative Soviet flags invading a country woke up old memories in me. A family member called to tell that after more than 50 years she felt her old fear again that were caused by a similar event in Eastern Europe in 1956. She thought she was over her traumas and her fear after she escaped the conflict. Seeing the pictures she suddenly felt the same fear again. War trauma leads to a wide range of psychological consequences and disorders that can be quite disabling. It turns one’s world upside down and impacts all aspects of life. The brain has a difficulty to cope with the traumatic events, the mind and body is in shock, the nervous system gets “stuck.”. Next to the overwhelming emotions they experience helplessness or hopelessness as a result of the lack of control. Witnessing abuse equals to being abused.
Being confronted with social judgement
Unfortunately one of the consequences of this conflict is that Russians living in Europe face now discrimination and hostility. Even though people know that Russian citizens are not to blame for the Russian government’s actions, they still feel that they need to make a statement. That is their way of dealing with their emotions and fears. A dear client, who was born in Russia and spent most of her life in Europe condemns the methods of her government. She looked me up this week because she was having identity crises. First she had to cope with loved family back in Russia who supports the conflict. They judge her for being European and not understanding the historical values. Than she was told at her work that some colleagues were not willing to work with her anymore. She was overloaded with guilt and shame. “Who am I she asks? How can I still feel the values of my origin and be proud of the person I am while I am being associated with the aggressor? Violence I am not standing for? I am a person not a flag or a political statement.”
Freedom of speech
Following the news, having discussions, coming from different parts of the world, different cultures, different political views we can clash on macro-events like pandemic, war, racism or climate change. We live in freedom and got the treasure of the freedom of speech. I do notice however that these days we are asked to use more skills. Empathy for each other, understanding the others position, humanity. Respect when one doesn’t want to talk. Be sensible with the tone of telling our opinions. Be curious about the others background and feelings. Respect that we are different and all have our reasons for what we think, and all have our emotions we are trying to cope with. Use the healing effect of belonging to a community in which we take care of each other.
It is important to remind us that there isn’t a right or wrong way to think, feel, or respond to what we have experienced. It helps to encourage the acceptance of our and the others feelings, no matter what they might be. The support of a family, or a community has a high importance in providing a sense of belonging, particularly when people are displaced at times of war.
We are all struggling with the fear of the uncertainty in the world right now, and our task is to come to terms and accept it, in order to get through our days. We are not in control of our future but we are in control of our present days and how we care for each other.
In therapy we will learn about all the feelings you have. If needed we use EMDR to process your intense emotions, your traumas. We challenge your sense of helplessness and negative thoughts so that you feel that you can control things in your daily life.
You are welcome to book an appointment for an initial talk on my website!