A few weeks ago I wrote a short piece in relation to an experience with Vicarious Trauma and gave a personal account of an experience relating to George Floyd’s killing and the Rodney King attack.
What was not explained was what vicarious trauma is. I will do here.
The experience for me then in 1996 was to see a man who I recognised as myself being beaten by 4 police officers. The reason for the attack appeared unjustified, unreasonable and extreme.
I saw myself as Rodney King. Being mistreated, handled in unlawful and in a grossly cruel way. The incident brought to my mind feelings of panic, feelings of loss and abandonment, sorrow, anger, bewilderment, confusion. Ideas that the world is unfair and dangerous. These earlier impressions have left me vigilant, aware, cautious.
As a counsellor/Psychotherapist/Coach/Supervisor the role is to support those who are interested in accessing guidance. Often clients bring painful experiences. At times their traumatic experiences maraud around the space we share, as if re-awakened like a Genie from a lamp.
‘Vicarious trauma is the emotional residue of exposure that counselors have from working with people as they are hearing their trauma stories and become witnesses to the pain, fear, and terror that trauma survivors have endured’
For many people the experience of knowing a negative event intimately as a person who has had that experience happen to them, or witnessed a negative event happen to another could leave that person suffering from vicarious trauma.
Any further events that resemble or are a reminder could result in the witness becoming triggered/affected by what they have been reminded of.
My link is George Floyd – Rodney King – my being chased by the police aged 17 – me being chased by Stephen on my estate aged 7.
The panic/fear response is still with me.
American Counseling Association – Vicarious Trauma
Criminal Knock and Announce Episode 143
The Stoop – Black on Air
The Infinite Monkey Cage – The Human Brain
Cover Photo by Martin Reisch on Unsplash
Inlay photo by Franck V. on Unsplash