Las Vegas. Another unspeakable, senseless tragedy. It’s impossible for us to wrap our minds around this kind of heinous act. When we’re faced with the tragic massacre of innocent lives, not only do we experience acute shock, outrage, and grief, our sense of the world being a fundamentally unsafe place gets rekindled and reinforced. It’s easy to focus on a negative and skewed view of human beings. These thoughts exacerbate feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, anxiety, and fear. Although we need comfort and support to process all of these cognitions and emotions, and should never underestimate the impact that murderous acts have on victims and their loved ones, we also have to be careful not to get lost in only one aspect of the tragedy.
What I encourage all of us to do in a time like this, is focus on the extraordinary acts of courage and heroism that every day people spontaneously and simultaneously engaged in:
- Strangers and first responders served as human shields, protecting people who were in the direct path of gunfire.
- Countless victims were carried to safety and tended to by laypeople who attempted to stop bleeding wounds, and through the administration of CPR.
- Acutely traumatized people, frozen in fear and unable to move, were quickly ushered into hiding places by those who could activate their flight response.
The extent to which hundreds of people put their own lives on the line to help others is nothing short of extraordinary. To me, this is the true representation of the human spirit; connecting, supporting, comforting, helping, nurturing and reassuring one another- even in the face of abject terror.
And one other point to consider: be careful not to overload on the news and the graphic images of carnage they always sensationally lead with to draw us in. If you need to get more information- which is a natural response when we’re trying to understand and “make sense out” of senseless acts- focus on the stories that highlight resiliency and courage. In doing so, you’ll be able to maintain your faith in the inherent goodness of the vast majority of people. Don’t allow the acts of one madman to overshadow your core belief that human beings have the capacity to be deeply loving and deeply caring.
May all of the innocent victims who lost their lives in this tragedy be honored and remembered through our continued acts of kindness. May their souls rest in peace.