For the majority of people, when traumatized, facing tragedy — feeling scared, angry, in pain and confused — the mind quickly goes to WHY…. it’s a natural response, a natural question.  However, it’s not a helpful question. In fact in can make you feel even worse.  Because? Because there is no really good or sufficient or real explanation to WHY.  We ask it because we typically believe an answer would help us feel in control, on top of the confusion …. But it does not. It’s a frustrating question which sometimes makes us feel even more confused and defeated.

    So instead — ask what, where, how, when.  This truly is not just semantics. It’s useful psychology.  Use an every day example.  Remember the last conflict you had with someone you really care about.  A conflict that did not go well for you. One where you felt treated badly, even in pain.  The first question, again, is usually why does _____ behave that way?  Why do I put up with it? What’s wrong with him/her/me?  As you travel through thoughts about the incident, you can likely see there are only bad answers to the question:  he/she is a horrible person; or I’m just stupid……….But if you ask: what happened? What did the other person actually say and do? What were the circumstances? What is our history with conflict?  Try it and see how your mind switches gears, even if just slightly at first.

    These questions give you information to pursue in more detail. They help minimize the level of confusion and create focus.  The pain and disappointment will still be real, but the concrete information you generate gives you a direction for doing something — for taking a next step that will help you resolve even more of the confusion, for finding a way to reduce the amount of stress you are feeling.

    Then go back to your “why questions” about the horrific incidents in Boston — or to any other crushingly painful experiences.  Ask similar questions about what happened.  These won’t make the confusion or the pain or the anxiety or the depression go away, but they will help you clarify what you feel.  Your thoughts, when heavily negative, lead you to feelings that can over whelm you, then to behaviors not in your best interest.

    If this truly does not make sense to you, at least try it.  When bad things happen to good people, we need to understand what we are thinking and feeling that’s sometimes buried under our confusion.  It’s a painful time, and when you can allow yourself to feel your feelings, reduce your stress as much as possible, you can hopefully move beyond the stress and go back into the world and feel like doing something good for yourself AND for anyone in your life — or in Boston.  Think of how you might make a difference for yourself and for others when your stress level goes down.  Reaching out really does help.  And whatever you do, try to keep from stuffing your pain and frustration.  Talk, write, feel, do.  It really does work.

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