Gun Violence and Vicarious Trauma

New Monday New Show! On this episode we talk about the death of Rapper Nipsey Hustle and how we all mourn a collective trauma when we lose someone to a televised tragedy. 

Also on the episode: We discuss the effects vicarious trauma and how to avoid it. Vicarious trauma is caused by repeated exposure to violent events, it is thought to only be experienced by caregivers but Ms Banks provides a unique perspective on the situation in this episode.


I am Brooklyn based psychotherapist Nikita Banks and I am your host of The Black therapist podcast the black therapist podcast the podcast where we discuss the unique issues people of color face when dealing with mental health issues and mental health diagnosis. If you would like to reach out to us for feedback or show suggestions show topics, please feel free to contact us at blackberry podcast at gmail. com. You can listen to new or past episodes on SoundCloud, Apple podcast Stitcher, Spotify, YouTube, I Heart Radio and Google Play. If you are having trouble listening to us on your preferred platform, or if you want us to be on a platform that we’re not currently on, make sure that you send us a private message on our Instagram page at Black therapist podcast. Or you can just drop us a message or send us an email at back therapists podcast com. If you want insider tips, resources and access to our free mental health course make sure that you text get happy to 66866 and my new book finding happy seven steps to relationships that will not steal your joy is available right now on Amazon, go to our website or go to our Instagram pages and click the link and purchase because we want to help you get your relationships together for 2018.

And beyond these Be mindful that this episode and

all the information that we provide here is just a resource and a tool to help get you started on your mental health journey. If you are feeling any mental health distress, or you having any significant issues, please feel free to reach out to us so that we can find you a mental health provider in your area. Okay, let’s go Hey, guys, so I wasn’t gonna even do a show today, I just have been feeling out of it completely, like not been feeling well today went out to celebrate my friends bridal party yesterday better at joint and I ended up leaving early because I just kind of was feeling a little bit under the weather. Until today, I spent most of the day in bed only to get up to here that nips the hustle was murdered.


I have to say, you know, I’m not really a fan of rap nowadays, maybe I’ll hear whatever’s on the radio or whatever, but I don’t really go looking for it. I don’t patronize it, I don’t, I’m not really a rap fan in 2019. And usually, most of that is is because, you know, I grew up in an era where guys were hustling because they needed to they were talking about hustling, you know,


guns, drugs, whatever. And I knew a lot of guys that were doing those things. And it just seemed like a natural progression of the music. But now to see and hear a lot of the music that’s made today is really about glorifying drug usage. It’s just, it’s weird to me, so I can’t really listen to it as I definitely don’t relate. But I understand I’m also not the target audience. But what I loved about nips, he was outside of just who he dated. And that kind of thing is just, every single time I seen something about him, it was like positive, buying back the block, you know, cooperative economics going in, you know, creating jobs for your community, listening to the elders, like feelings, like he talked about feelings and protecting your energy. And even, you know, I think I even saw something where he was talking about therapy, right. So he was just such a good positive force in the community. And for that light to be taken is is a is a death, that the nation is mourning. I know, his family feels laws, and those kids feel it. But like everybody is just collectively morning. And so I’m going to read play one of our old shows, which is about vicarious trauma. And I think that’s, that’s a little bit in that show about, but about things that happen in the community, and what happens when we all have traumatic events that we’ve survived as a community, and what you can do to protect your energy from that and just heal. Because, for me, I have a lot of trauma around this is very triggering, you know, to be the age I am, I’ve lost so many of my male friends, to gun violence. I’ve lost so many, you know, you know, partners, guys, I’ve dated dudes hung out with dudes I was raised with to gun violence. So I’m just I’m just at a loss limit to Biggie and Tupac stuff, then, you know, meeting both of them. It’s Yes, I just I feel I feel lost. And I don’t know what the answer is. everybody’s asking us to answer. If the police did this, we’d be marching in the streets. And if the the, you know, we got stopped killing our own. I get it. But we don’t even know who did this. All these conspiracy theories, I don’t think that they help. Because right now, just the community is in pain and what I what I don’t know. I while I don’t know the answer to the questions that are lingering out there, like what can we do? I do know that if collectively, we come together and master our minds. And collectively we come together protect our energy, like he said, and collectively, we try to do things to uplift the whole entire community.

They’re not going to be able to stop us.

There’s a lot of talk about him and got to say, we document and documentary. And I don’t know anything about that. I do know people who worked at Dr. savy, I have friends who were tapped into, you know, that place, right. But I just I don’t want to speculate on any of that. But I know that if we all ate properly, and if we all studied the teachings of our great leaders, that ones that have come before us, if we all decided to pull our resources together, and back the block. And if we all decided that we wanted to start businesses, and create opportunities for others, they can’t fight all of us, they can’t kill all of us. And by day, I don’t I mean, whoever they is, whether it’s a black person who’s a hater, or if it’s a white person would have the government that I know is against us, that works against us every single day. They can’t fight us all. So, I mean, I just, I pray for his family, I pray for his fans.

I pray for my listeners,

I pray for the men I love, you know, in my community. It This is my worst fear as a mother of five. As a lover, black man of a black man, you know what I mean? Because you can be positive and do all the right things, and somebody else can still take your life. And that’s the fear that we have. It’s the anxiety that’s built into our DNA collectively, is the the the struggle that we have to fight every single day as a personal color in this country. And so I hope you enjoyed today’s show. I don’t want to really talk about anything else. Right now. Just

hug your loved ones.

You know, and be kind to yourself. Okay, so we’re going to get into it. This is another episode of that purpose podcast be well.

So this week’s show, I want to talk about something called vicarious trauma. And the way that I ended up coming up to I don’t know, figuring out what I wanted to do a show this week was because I was outside last week, probably in the middle of the week, and I looked up in the sky, and I saw the light show. That is the tribute, I guess I don’t even know what it’s called distributed in lights of the Twin Towers. I live here in New York and Brooklyn, New York. And you know, when the day the Twin Towers fell 16 years ago, I literally watched the towers fall out of the sky. So at first I was just kind of going about my day, you know, at dusk, and I saw people looking up in the sky, the probably like new New Yorkers, identifiers. And I was like, what are they looking at, but I wasn’t really paying attention. Because as most New Yorkers do, I was just kind of going along with my day, or my evening, and I don’t know I was walking. And I ended up walking in a direction where I kind of cut the lights in my peripheral. And it hit me like a jolt, shit is September 11. And it was accepted number six, or something. So the lights were on, like super early. And you can kind of go back a day ago about your your time and not think about, you know what day of the weekend is or what day it is. But anniversaries like this, especially if you are in that area, New York, in DC, or Virginia, where the Pentagon was that you kind of don’t forget where you are when these national tragedies happen. And so it got me to thinking about how triggering, it was, for me thinking about that day, I lost a family member. And I 11. And I just kind of remember like getting the phone calls and not knowing where, where, where she was and being worried. And you know, actually literally being outside watching. The fighter jets fly above us and like seeing the buildings fall. And I try not to dwell on those things like our mind is so great that it kind of shields you from those things, but things like anniversary. Our minds shields us from those kind of negative memories, but on anniversaries that those times are kind of hard to forget things that we’ve seen and things that we’ve gone through, both as a nation as a family and as a city and as an as a state here in New York, for me to see the lights, it was like a bolt of like emotions kind of went through me. And unfortunately, or fortunately, I’m not really sure which I still had to go on with my day. So I got me thinking about vicarious trauma and how it shows up. There was a lot of not not 11 studies, I had co workers who worked on some of the 911 studies and you know, widows, they carried some of their that trauma as they were making their babies and their wounds. And these these are real occurrences. So I started to think more about you know, the phenomenon and actually wrote a piece in in paper, a paper in school soldering about vicarious is trauma on a movie, which was about a father who lost his wife in 911, which is raining on me and Adam Sandler is in it. And it was a pretty good movie, if you ever look at it, but it kind of like describes what we’re going to talk about today in movie four. Okay, so vicarious trauma is usually something that’s only thought of as like caregivers. So in the case of 911, it would have been, you know, the social workers, the therapists, the first responders, counselors, but vicarious trauma is something that happens to us each and every day, as we watch tragedies, or we care for six people, or, you know, in the case of my work experience, I deal with a lot of people who have dealt with sexual violence and sexual trauma. And you know, by hearing those stories over and over, and over and over again, you can get inundated with all these intrusive thoughts and on things in your mind that if you’re not very careful, you will be susceptible to being depressed, and I’m having your own mental health issues just from being exposed to these things. And so that carries trauma can also be seen as a physiological effects people face when they have both face natural and man made disaster. So for example, this 2016 election, I laugh, but that’s not funny. But you know, a lot of people were really negatively affected by the election. I know, as a therapist, I went to my therapist, after the election happened, I know that, you know, statistically, there were calls to people’s therapist, and there was actually arise and people going to visit that therapist after that election, because it kind of changed the the the idea of what we thought we were as a country. And so psychologically, there were changes and shifts that happened as a result to that one event. And that’s really what vicarious trauma is repeated shootings of unarmed black men in this country where PD media exposure of those events, watching all of all of that the trials and the acquittals, and just the dehumanizing a coverage that occurs whenever violence is committed against African American person or Hispanic person in this country, or in anybody in the name of race, right? We see that in Charlottesville and have the higher being murdered. And so the responses are apathetic to people who don’t look like us, and don’t seem to care about our issues, watching them, you know, roam through the streets with guns and tiki torches, right. So that’s psychologically damaging. And so being able to see those things, whether you lived in Charlottesville, or you lived in Brooklyn, New York, you know, it’s real, that it’s happening. And it’s happening today. And that is happening to people who look like me and are targeted that, who are people that I know, and I can identify with, that is a scary thing. So it affects you psychologically, as well as those who have lived through Hurricane Katrina. Right now, we’ve had a lot of hurricanes, Irma, and Jose, in the floods in Texas. And so let’s say have you lived through Katrina, and then you move to Texas, or you move to Florida. And you’ve seen this happening? Again, it’s psychologically triggering. And so I’m living in New York, like I said, After 911, there was an injection into the national psychology, for good or bad, I really can’t tell that there was a national shift in emotions, and the energy that occurred after these kinds of events. And so that’s what I want to talk about with vicarious trauma. Mostly people have a narrow, narrow definition of vicarious trauma, they usually think it only affects first responders or like, you know, therapists or social workers or people in the mental health field or helping professionals right. But no, we are all affected by trauma, whether it happens to us, or it happens to somebody that looks like us, or it happens to somebody who we could identify as being us, right, if something can happen to have a higher, it can happen to me, if something can happen to an unarmed black man, it can happen to somebody that I love. So that affects me on a on a deeper visceral level than it does to somebody who is not of my same culture, or doesn’t care about my you know, my well being or they don’t care about my issues, right. And so vicarious trauma is defined as the process of change that happens, because you care about other people who have been hurt, and feel committed or responsible to help them over time, this process can lead to changes in your physiological, your physical and your spiritual well being just like any other trauma, it’s usually a result of repeated exposure to certain events. So again, I mean, I hate to use this as another example. But unfortunately, my country gives me so many of them to think about when we see unarmed black men have negative police interactions, over and over and over and over again, generation after generation, it becomes overwhelming, it becomes embedded in our psyche. And so it changes how we think how we act and how we move. And so this is not just something that you think about the happens just to first responders or like caregivers, this is everybody, I believe vicarious trauma, something that happens throughout the community, especially the more and more I look at the definition, cumulative effects of contact with survivors, right? So because I’m, I’m black, and I’m in the black community, I know more and more people who’ve been affected by this kind of like racial based violence or police brutality or poverty or, you know, because I’m in New York, I know more people who’ve been affected by 911. Right as but as well as because I work in this field, it comes up, you know, we meet we talk about the trauma that people face in the community. So let’s say somebody like me, I’m Tripoli, right? I’m Tripoli predisposed to have vicarious trauma. Number one, I lived in New York to 911. That’s one level of exposure. Number two, I lost a family member, or somebody that I knew in the attack. Another risk factor is that you witness the cruelty or you experience or see the loss following the distressing disaster, or even a traumatizing story. So being exposed to the aftermath of what happens following the hurricane or following the media exposure to these things, or following 911. I know for me, with 911, I don’t know if there was a week later, or like a few weeks later, right after 911. And may have been a month later. But it just all felt like it was just one event 911 happened and I was like screwed up about that whole situation. And then a few weeks later, could have been a month later could have been a year later, I just remember it being around this time, New York had experienced a horrific plane crash from the Dominican Republic. And, and I remember just being like holy crap, not again, I just want to hide under my bed. Because for me having such a history of exposure to violence and trauma being somebody who grew up in Brooklyn, and that’s who made me exposed and leaves me predisposed to PTSD, as well as vicarious trauma. And then I do this for a living. I keep saying that. But I’m going to get into why I keep saying that. Because self care is so important. regardless of if you are a mental health professional, or if you’re just somebody who consumes the news on an everyday basis, or if you live through a horrific events, self care is important. And it’s something that we need to do more in our everyday life. So changes occur as a result of the physiological and psychological exposure to these things. And when you empathize with the victim, it makes the trauma real for you. So you know, my level of exposure as empathetic social worker, or my level of exposure, as you know, the mother of a black child, when I see a black child be murdered, or my level of exposure, as opposed to a white supremacist or white person or somebody who’s removed from event is different. And while I can empathize with the people on the ground in Texas, right now, my heart goes out to my friends, because I know that it’s not only whether you empathize, but if you feel the need and the act to do something. And so for my friends who have family in Texas, of course, they’re going to just get up and get on a plane and go or go there and go do things, you know, you know, a lot of celebrities have have reached out to donate money and donate time to help me build Texas but I mean, I’m gonna keep it real. I’m a New Yorker. And because I’m a I’m physically removed from the situation, I can kind of put it away, mentally, and I don’t have to deal with the devastation that my friends who who live in Texas, and my friends who live in Florida right now have to deal with, they have to deal with it on a daily basis. And even if it’s not their home, that is destroyed or flooded, or they lost things, it’s somebody that they know, and I’m, you know, I have loved ones in all of those zones, and I’m just, I’m praying for them. But to be honest with you, I’m trying not to get so filled with worry about things that are not in my control that I can’t put any more on my emotional plate than I already have. So empathy makes the trauma happen in that by that trauma, I’m talking about the vicarious trauma, they hurt and you have a responsibility to do something about it. So for first responders or for the builders, or for the people that are there in the aftermath of the the immediate emergency, it says thing that can be very, very overwhelming. And by seeing it so many times you’ll you’ll even gain physiological symptoms, and we’re going to talk about that in a minute. So the impact of the trauma, it helps to change the view of your world. And it allows you to question your spirituality, right? Why did God allow this to happen? Where Where was God when, when this occurred, you start to think of all kinds of crazy things and it starts to test your faith, vicarious trauma. So because I’m reading the symptoms list of what vicarious trauma is. So by very definition of the things that I’m reading, to me, that’s not something that only happens to caregivers, right? trauma exposure to a situation in which a person is confronted with an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury to themselves or to others, it can cause a vicarious trauma. So the fact that people are saying that this is something that only happens to caregivers, to me doesn’t make any sense, like I said, but by definition, so what leads you to exposure to vicarious trauma, or symptoms of vicarious trauma, your role in the event. So, if you’re a first responder, if your house was actually hit by any of the natural disasters, if you saw on 911, if you lost a loved one, your role plays a part in whether or not you will have exposure, also proximity to the trauma, right? Obviously, people in Florida are going to be more affected by Hurricane karma. Or if you were in Cuba, or in any of the Virgin Island islands that were hit, you would be more affected by those things, life stressors, if you have other life stresses that have absolutely nothing to do with that event itself. You are predisposed to feeling and over identifying with the other people who’ve actually dealt with those things, if you know them. Also, if you don’t have effective coping skills, effective coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, you are predisposed to have vicarious trauma over identification. Which means that if I said oh my god, a hurricane happened in, I don’t know, Texas, it can happen in New York, it can happen anywhere. If you are predisposed to anxiety, or mental health issues, you are predisposed to like areas trauma and past exposure. Like I said, for people who are have lived through Hurricane Katrina or who lived through Andrew, this is a triggering situation, and they are going to be more connected with the victims of the natural disasters that we’re having right now. cultural expression of trauma and grief is a big one. So I’m black, if you didn’t know. But you know, we have a way of dealing with grief and and natural disasters, in our communities, especially for those of us who are religious, we just prayed away. And we actually don’t deal with the emotions and we suppress the feelings and we’re told to just give it to God and God will make it better and it’s God with God’s will. And you’re not to question God. And sometimes that that’s just not the best answer to give when you’re dealing with trying to figure out why you just lost everything. That’s who works very hard for your life. And you have to tap the smile. I was with a friend recently who lost almost everything in Houston yesterday and she was smiling through it. And wow, I commend her for doing so I would have been okay if she chose not to. And I would have been okay, if she would have said, You know what, I feel really messed up. I lost everything. I don’t know what I’m going to do. And we hugged it out and she cried and cried about it. And we talked about it. Because that really helps dealing with these kinds of issues, physical changes that happen because yes, you have physical symptoms, you become hyper aware, well Hi, we’re sensitive. You have PTSD symptoms, nightmares, night terrors, intrusive thoughts, thinking about it all the time, not able to put it out of your mind, bad dreams, anxiety, depression, fear, numbness, emotional paralysis, sometimes like physical paralysis, you feel like you can’t do anything because you’re so overwhelmed with where to start. So that’s that’s a symptom, increased sensitivity or hypersensitivity sleep disturbances. Obviously, if you’re having nightmares, you might not be able to sleep guilt, anger and fear, terrorizing fear and anxiety. So these are all symptoms that can happen. Also emotional symptoms is isolation, depression, anger, you may see an increase in substance use drug use alcohol abuse, and issues surrounding impulse control. Okay, so now that you guys know what vicarious trauma is, and what I think it is, here are some ways that you will be able to deal with vicarious trauma or least lessen the effects of it on your life. Number one, remove yourself from access to the trauma, turn off your smartphones,

turn off your

your your meet media app, social media is your news app. vape because news comes right to your phone now, right. So just just be mindful of filtering out some of those things that you’re ingesting that leaves you exposed to the trauma, clear your mind of the events, learn skills like mindfulness, meditation, prayer, go take a walk, get away from it physically, if you can, if you can go on vacation, or remove yourself from the event and any way that you can those options. Talk about your feelings with people who understand non judgmental, go to a group of survivors group but but be Be careful with over sharing or taking one of the People’s grief while you’re in that space. Because that can be very difficult to do. But individual therapy is also a great way to lessen the effects of vicarious trauma, we vibrate as a country on energy, we vibrate as humans on energy. So when the energy of the country is fearful, and the energy of the country is depressed, or the energy of the country is anxious, as we have been these last few months, we all feel it vicariously, we all feel it, we feel it. And so there are things that we need to learn to do to control that that feeling and there are things that we need to do to put our, our emotional equilibrium on even playing I’m a Libra. So everything for me is about balance. And so the last tip that I’ll give is a BC awareness. So you have to be aware of your feelings and that you’re taking on these these feelings and the symptoms of vicarious trauma, staying provide yourself with balance if you’re a caregiver, if you are in the caring professions, if you are a first responder, you have to balance the tragedy with your everyday life. And you have to find the balance between caring and not over caring, working and leaving your work at home not taking your work at home. Because I mean, I hear a lot of traumatic things but I literally don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it after work and that sounds horrible, but I have to be able to deal with how am I going to pay my light bill if all I’m thinking about is you know a client who was molested or or you know, sexually violated or you know, lost their homes or whatever thing I may hear on a daily basis. Like I have to be able to find a balance between my work life and my home life and the trauma and norm normality. Getting into a routine is one of the best ways to kind of lessen the symptoms of vicarious trauma. Also make a connection. Make a connection with like minded people. Whether it is people who have experienced the trauma or people who don’t know nothing about the trauma go to a yoga group go to meditation group learn to remove yourself from the trauma but also do it in a way that you’re building a connection to other people who may know exactly what you’re going through thank you guys for listening to another episode of black their podcast once again you can follow us on all our social media sites at Black therapists podcast on Instagram and on Twitter as well as black in therapy on Facebook or you can follow your host me Miss MS in IK I think on Instagram and Twitter as well as you can find out any information about me at Nikita and IKAITA Banks dot com and on the show’s website laugh therapists podcast calm and don’t forget if you want to send us any general feedback show suggestions show topic for get ideas please feel free to drop us an email at Black therapists podcast at gmail. com Thank you be well

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