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The Mental Effects of Watching Police Shootings

The shooting deaths of two African American men by police over the last week has sparked legitimate and intense outrage across the country. While there have been a number of Black deaths at the hands of police over the years and the attack on 11 officers, in which at least five of them died, the video footage has become increasingly more graphic in capturing the details.

The videos have gone viral and left many wondering what effect they will have on people.

Violence in America is not new, nor has the story changed, but the narrative has evolved to include fuller video footage of death. Video has now become the primary narrative and source of information and what we see is harder to deny although it is done often as a result of cognitive dissonance.

So what can happen to us emotionally when we see graphic videos of real deaths?

Trauma. When we watch violent videos of death that resonate closer to our souls, we experience it as a trauma and our minds are forever affected. Depending on how intensely we are affected, it can result in post-traumatic stress.

Confusion. When we are faced with integrating new information into our minds, we can feel off-center and unsure what to think. This is normal because we now have a chunk of information or a new experience that we must find a way to incorporate into who we are and what we believe to be true.

Bewilderment. We inherently want to believe that the world is a certain way or moving in a certain direction. When we witness something that contradicts that, we question why it is not so. We try very hard to make what we are seeing “rare” or a “one off” situation. However if similar incidents continue to occur over time our minds give into reality. Unfortunately, this means that in order for people to believe that racism and violence are real, they have to be bombarded with it until there is no place to hide from it.

Overwhelmingness. When our minds cannot take in what we are witnessing and our emotions are on overload, we become overwhelmed and shut down.

The best way to deal with trauma is to talk about it in a healthy way. This means having discussions about and processing the trauma so it is released and transmuted into a greater awareness of the world around you and how you fit into this bigger world.

Avoid gossiping and recapitulating the event. It’s okay to talk about what happened as long as you incorporate what you learned about yourself and the world from it. This takes you out of the trauma into more productive spaces and energy. You are able to make positive changes when you are higher place of understanding and power.

If you find that you are still struggling with the affects of watching the graphic videos of police shootings, reach out to your local mental health community centers or a therapist for help. Learning how to process your feelings in a healthy way can go far in your healing and growth.

With love and light, now more than ever, I wish you all pleasant journeys.

Jinnie

Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW

Do you have a question for our “Moment of Clarity” JET Therapist, Jinnie? Email us at digitalpitches@ebony.com. We’ll be sure to keep it anonymous and confidential. 

Jinnie Cristerna, affectionately known as “The High Achievers Therapist”, works with talented people to help them release emotional pain and psychological roadblocks so they can achieve their personal and professional goals. Specializing in clinical and spiritual psychotherapy, heart centered hypnotherapy, vibrational energy, meditation, Yhandi and RoHun.  Sign up for Jinnie’s High Achiever newsletter, join her on Facebook and Twitter, or view her self-help books!