“Oops” Doesn’t Undo Trauma

For 38 minutes the people of Hawaii were traumatized by a false alarm of a missile attack. What happened after they were told that it was a false alarm? Were they simply relieved and happy that it didn’t happen? Or were they also angry, or sad, or maybe even still terrified? Will a sound similar to a siren cause some to jump more than normal? Will news of North Korea cause anxiety or depression?

When trauma enters your body, an “oops, never mind!” doesn’t undo the trauma. It enters your body and is remembered by your body based on what you knew and felt in that moment. Even if circumstances change later to eliminate a threat, or your perspective of the situation is different later in life, the trauma is still there. Hawaiians knowing that this is a false alarm does not erase those 38 minutes of terror and confusion. An entire state has been traumatized, along with their friends and family who live elsewhere.

False alarms happen, but not always with this level of impact. Part of the reason that the trauma was able to be felt so intensely is that the alarm was believable. It was believable because of current political climate of the world we live in. This means that the people of Hawaii are similar to a trauma victim who is still in a potentially abusive situation. While many are likely to land on a therapist’s couch in the near future, and that is highly recommended, it is much easier to help somebody heal from trauma when they have a sense of stability and safety in life.

Some are calling this a catalyst for positive change. We seem to be getting more than our fair share of such catalysts these days… Meanwhile, be extra kind to your loved ones in Hawaii.