Many of us have experienced trauma in our lives. When we witness other people who are experiencing trauma, our ability to be present for their situation may be heightened or compromised. Either way, we are often (whether for a moment or longer), thrown back into our previous experience and for that time, we need to address what is going on within ourselves. Our personal experience will have an impact on how we process what we witness.
It can be helpful to acknowledge and pay attention to the power of triggers in our lives. Anything can be a trigger. A cue can come through any of our senses and can be sudden or take its time. Anything can elicit a response and recognizing them, identifying how we feel, and addressing what we can do is valuable. To healthfully get through a situation, we may need to briefly mentally, emotionally, or physically separate ourselves from what we are witnessing. Allowing ourselves to do this can be extremely helpful to be able to more fully participate with empathy and compassion. Giving ourselves this opportunity, may help us more present as a witness. By doing this, we may discover and draw on resilience we did not know we had.
The ability to adapt well in the face of another person’s adversity, trauma, or tragedy requires that we are aware of and can deal with our own emotional response.