It’s part of our hard wiring to feel empathy for others pain. Mirror neurons fire within us when we see someone else do or feel something.  It’s why laughter is infectious, why we get the shivers when we see someone else get a scalp massage, get hungry when we’re watching others eat food, etc. It’s also why we can feel so traumatized when we see news showing the terrorist attacks that took lives in Paris and Beirut. We feel the echo within us of the devastation, shock, loss and outrage. We can also go through the trauma ourselves because our mirror neurons fire or because we’ve already had trauma in our lives that we have suffered and survived or both.

Peace for ParisThese kinds of events, like all traumas, trigger our flight or fight response.  For most it translates into wanting to do something to help even from great distances.  It shows in the form of Jean Jullien’s Peace for Paris design which has gone viral, in the French flags colors being displayed everywhere, and vigils being held all over the world.  Some people are negative about these acts of solidarity seeing them as useless or just for show. However, trauma can only heal if we move through all four stages of the trauma process: Event/Shock, Adrenalize for fight or flight, Fight/Flight, release excess emotion and physical body state back to norm.

This is why it is important to do something with these emotions when they surface.  It doesn’t matter whether the trauma is something you experienced or you are mirroring, the body experiences it as real and needs to move through all four stages. Not doing anything, ignoring or trying to repress the feelings causes the trauma to be trapped in the body which will try desperately to get it out in some other fashion. This causes dysfunction and confusion as the feelings and actions become disconnected from the source and develop into something seemingly random.  Instead, allowing the trauma to flow through by allowing yourself to take action, physical action allows the body to feel that it has survived the threat and to release from the emotions.  We focus on the emotional aspect of these types of trauma, trying to help ourselves feel better, but it is as much in our body as in our hearts and doing something will alleviate things faster and help us see more clearly the road ahead.