The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School went back into session Feb. 28, and it did not take long before the expected occurred: that morning a student angrily accused a teacher of locking him and others out of the classroom during the shooting lockdown. He called the teacher a coward and opportunist.
This was predictable and I wish the school, community and media were prepared. Anger and blame are extremely common immediately after suffering a trauma. Furthermore, the one who receives the bulk of those bursts are important to the equation as well. Everyone who has experienced trauma has a high propensity for anger and blame. The worst we can do as a community is feed into the anger and divisiveness. Because it is in that fragmentation that the lonely withdrawal leads to greater suffering and intensifies the PTSD.
The student is suffering fully from the post-traumatic stress of the massacre. He is expected to feel the onslaught of his emotions, especially his anger. It is through the healing of the anger that the trauma can also begin to heal. He is directing it toward someone by whom he felt abandoned and betrayed (even though there was no way around it by the teacher). In the abandonment, he could have been destroyed by the murderer. He felt the helplessness and the betrayal of the trust in the system and the teacher. That was his experience and, emotionally, he didn't know what to do with it. So, he blames. He blames because he wants to get rid of these hideous, helpless, overwhelming feelings that are haunting him. He blames.
But unfortunately, blame does nothing but create a circle of greater helplessness. And, so his anger continues as he "tries" to find a way to master the pain and suffering that over takes his youthful life.
The teacher did what he had to do to protect the students in his class without knowing what was on the other side. He was also traumatized by the event. So, there is a very real probability that these accusations are ripping him asunder. But he did what he was told to do to protect the students he had in the room. He must learn to not take the student's words personally (more difficult than it sounds). It is a time to see through the words and watch the pain come through the rage and destruction of the attacking words, for that is where this truth lies.
Here is why it is predictable. Trauma has many symptoms that do not go away over time. A few of them are:
the psychological distress from exposure to symbols that remind you of the event
avoidance of feelings
negative beliefs, e.g., the world or others cannot be trusted
persistent fear-based emotions
detachment or estrangement from others
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irritability and anger
reckless or destructive behavior
The student appears to be experiencing all of these symptoms.
My perspective: The school and support system present need to educate the students, community and staff on the predictable emotional, behavioral and spiritual pieces of PTSD so that each of these stories does not begin to fragment the unity that is there at this time. It needs to be taught that fear fragments while love unites. We all heal with unity but many will continue to suffer deeply with fragmentation.
I would recommend that the community plans trust events, unifying events, fun events. Each week could offer a new way to interact with unity and healing. There is so very much they could do and need to do to properly heal Parkland.
About The Writer
Boca Raton resident Kristen Bomas is a psychotherapist, life mastery teacher, author and speaker.
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