The following post was created for Self-Therapy Month at Techealthiest. This is Part One.
When frightening events like the Chelsea bombing and the additional planting of nine other bombs from New Jersey to New York occur, we have no choice but to create a mental file in which to place our thoughts, feelings and images associated with the attack.
It has to be stored in your memory one way or another.
Those of us who live or work in New York City have been more directly affected by this nerve-shaking attack, but its explosive effects are, without a doubt, far-reaching, as news, commentary and images have been repeatedly catapulted from the media toward our eyes and ears, which essentially forces us to make sense of what happened.
At worst, you've been vicariously traumatized by the bombing (or directly traumatized if you were on 23rd Street that Saturday night). The more common reaction among is to be shaken and disturbed in the days following the bombing, followed by a few weeks of talking about the bombing with your social and work circles.
Social media essentially guarantees that you'll have to grapple with disturbing thoughts about the attack, but for how long will these thoughts linger in your mind?
This leads me to the question I've been pondering since the event occurred: What is considered a "healthy" way to reflect upon the Chelsea bombing way after the event, as well other terror attacks that have occurred (and God forbid might happen again)?
Here are four things to be remembered about the attack that will promote health and personal responsibility.
1) Use the memory of this event to remind you of all that you currently have, most notably things that money can't buy.
You actually are rich because you have everything you need right now. Dare to be more thankful than you've been of late. Let the memory of the terror attack spark a feeling of gratitude toward the people in life who are invested in your happiness AND the people who don't seem invested in your happiness.
It's just too easy to lose touch with what matters most. Life can change in a split second. Don't forget that but it's not healthy to think about this idea all of the time because it can turn to anxiety if it becomes an obsession. See this horrible event as a beautiful opportunity to be reminded of all that you have, especially your freedom, friends, health, family or whatever matters most to you.
2) Think twice...three times...a thousand times about the consequences of spreading hatred before you utter a single word.
There are two hugely important points here. First, on a personal level, when you spread hatred, you're killing the cells in your body. You lose. A part of you dies. The spread of word venom is an artificial way to expand your ego by diminishing others. It certainly makes you depressed and it pushes people away from you, except for people who either are as angry as you are or whose lives are devoid of meaning and are looking for something to believe in.
Second, the expression of hatred on the web can cause real harm to people. There are people out there who feed off of hatred. Keep in mind that social media creates a thunderclap that spreads like wildfire through the web. For people who feel powerless, this is a place to gain a synthetic sense of power. Hatred on social media spreads like cancer, and makes everyone sick.
Please know that if you're constantly ranting on Facebook about Trump or Clinton or any person or group with whom you have a major problem, most of your "friends" are viewing you as crazy. They probably contemplated defriending you, but they're either lazy or they don't want to have to randomly face your scariness in the supermarket or at your next high school reunion. Instead, they've subtly unfollowed you and connected your current venomous behavior to a past memory of you being something negative. Please know that I'm referring to the expression of hatred, not anger, the latter of which can often be healthy and productive to express.
3) The collective American attention span is shrinking at an alarming rate.
The speed at which information travels makes us more likely to be satiated at a faster rate. In other words, you've probably been bombarded by news of the bombing so much that you eventually either tune it out completely or you go numb when you hear about it. The danger here is that you're likely to miss the value inherent in remembering what happened and what could have been.
How do you counter a natural tendency for your emotional reactions toward the Chelsea bombing to become watered down as a result of social media satiation? At minimum, make a reminder to mention the bombing at your next major family, religious or other gathering. Talk about the event in terms of how it affected you and what you now feel thankful for. Another strategy is to find a way to express your thoughts and feelings about the event though a creative modality that you repeat even months after the disturbing event. For example, if you dabble in acrylic art, create a series of paintings over time which serve as an expression of your inner experience of the incident.
4) Crowdsourcing is a weapon against terror.
Yes, social media (and the media in general) spread hatred, false beliefs and dangerous calls to action faster than the world as ever known. How little it takes for an individual to incite violence on the web is scary, but various forms media can also (obviously) be used to spread good and inform people of important developments. Case in point: the capture of Ahmad Khan Rahimi, the Chelsea bomber. Harry Bains had been watching CNN, which allowed him to recognize Rahimi who was sleeping next to Bain's bar in Linden, New Jersey. This is loosely an example of how crowdsourcing can aid in spreading valuable information to combat terror.
Who knows what the next incident will be? Use the internet as a way to inform people if something suspicious is happening in front of you. You have the loudest megaphone ever created in the form of Twitter and Facebook.
There's much more to say here, but it's time to digest and return to this topic soon. This essentially reflects the optimal strategy. Ponder the horrible events that occurred. Learn from it. Vow to appreciate life more at least in the short term. Move on but return to it at a later date. Just don't forget.
Stay tuned for Part Two of my lessons learned from the Chelsea bombing.
Techealthiest is an exciting blog dedicated to teaching the technology of health and happiness. Learn innovative tips and strategies for improving your relationship, including the impact of your digital world on love and marriage.
Dr. Greg Kushnick is a Manhattan psychologist in private practice with offices in Chelsea and the Financial District. He employs enhanced CBT techniques to help one New Yorker at a time. He has extensive experience working with people to alleviate their anxiety, depression, anger and relationship problems.