translated from source : https://nantes.indymedia.org/articles/41154
Emotional first aid
A small accompanying text for political activism, especially for mentally stressful experiences before, during and after an action.
What is it about ?
Each person who is politically active may be directly affected by repression, as much as they may feel concerned for a person close to them. Situations of direct police violence in a protest, confrontation with fascists, or the tracking by intelligence services can create situations of fear, loss of perceptions, stress, and emotional laceration. These attacks can have emotional repercussions for much longer than visible physical injuries. Of course, not all of these experiences of violence lead to consequences of long-term suffering or trauma. Several factors play a part in the whole. The way in which each one lives the situations of violence and repression, is very individual and asks for solidarity support to answer the needs of the people concerned. If one is afraid to express their fears, if it is taboo to talk about it, then the risk of isolation in the political or in private contexts is possible. It is the purpose of repression and violence to intimidate and make us feel weak and helpless in the face of power. Dealing well with situations of fear and other emotions should be part of our understanding of struggle. It is the purpose of repression and violence to intimidate and make us feel weak and helpless in the face of power. Dealing with situations of fear and other emotions should be part of our understanding of struggle.
Whenever a person finds himself (or feels) unable to act, it can lead to trauma. The lack of support can worsen reactions to an overwhelming situation. This may weigh even heavier than the situation itself and must be taken very seriously. The implications of repression, even emotionally, are not of a private personal matter, they concern all of us and only together can we resist.
Possible reactions to overwhelming situations
Reliving the experience :
Not being able to discard the images and memories of the experience, Flashback (sense of reliving the situation), nightmares ...
Avoiding / exclusion :
Increasing alcohol and drug use, withdrawing and isolating oneself, reducing social activities, loss of memory, avoiding anything related to the lived experience, changing dietary habits, impact on sleep and sex life.
Insomnia, disturbances, excessive anger and outbursts of emotions, concentration problems, fears and nervousness, rage, boredom, uncontrollable crying, stomach pain, muscular tentions, mistrust and paranoia.
Possible reactions are :
Anxiety attacks, feelings of guilt, shame, self-blame ;
A questioning of one's political and inter-human commitments ;
A resurgence of memories of past traumas, a feeling that this phase will never end, loss of ambition and motivation.
Sometimes these reactions arise long after the events (A few weeks or even years later). Our behavior can help us and those around us, to manage experiences lived. The goal is to integrate the heavy life situation of the person concerned, since this can influence it, and can not be undone. Everyone has different reactions to stressful events.
How to react in a group :
Communicate before an action in relation to how you feel and what your limits are.
Define who will support you in an unforeseen situation, who will accompany you if you want to get out of a situation. Create affinity groups and take care of yourself ;
Take time after an action to talk about what happened. Give each person involved in the action an opportunity to tell where she was, what she did, what she heard, saw and felt. So each one has the possibility of reconstructing the event and better understanding the whole ;
Not only do the injured ones need support, but the people who support them need to be attentive to their own needs and personal limitations. It is important to respect yourself and your own limits.
How can you support your friends :
Do not wait until you are asked for help, try to make yourself available. The first days after a intens situation are very important to talk about, later on the communication can become more difficult ;
You may feel unable to handle the situation or do not know how to behave. Trying to behave in the usual way, without pity or being insistent, can already help a lot. Make efforts of being tolerant of the reactions of the person concerned. It is important for your friend to feel comfortable and safe with you ;
Keep in mind that people who have experienced overwhelming situations often feel good at first, but the reactions can come long after the situation ;
Try to listen without judgment or criticism if possible. Often, we try to give advice instead of actually listening ;
Talking about it helps to assimilate the experience. Encourage your friend, with caution and without pressure, to tell their story, their emotions, their thoughts, etc. ;
Insisting or forcing the person to tell things that they want to avoid, causes withdrawal or distancing ;
Try not to be upset if your friend reacts irritably or remains unapproachable , and continue to support your friend. These are reactions that can appear after difficult situations.
What you can do for yourself :
Tell yourself that your reactions are normal and that there is support!
Take your time, be lenient with yourself in a place where you feel good and safe.
Try to rest ;
Allow friends to help you and take care of you ;
Walking around relaxes. Sometimes it is better to walk around or go for a walk than to sit down ;
Try not to isolate yourself. Address your friends and tell them that you need support ;
Feeling guilty is a reaction that often accompanies trauma. Be aware that the situation is not your fault, the aggressors are responsible for it.
Close ones, such as family, often do not know how to react. Tell them if their behavior makes you feel uncomfortable and does not help you. Tell them what you need ;
Massages, hot baths as well as herbal teas (for example, valerian) or essential oil can help you (for example the essential oil of small grains of bitter oranges : put 1 drop on the inside of the wrists, 2 to 3 times a day. Breathe deeply by bringing your hands to your face).
Find things that make you feel good. Alcohol and other drugs can have long-term negative consequences ;
In case of stress or anguish: inhale the air thoroughly by sending the air down into your stomach counting up to 4 in your head. Block your breathing while counting up to 4. Exhale thoroughly counting to 4. Block your breathing while counting up to 4. Again. Again and again ; Rest and eat well !
To better understand your reactions, learn about the subject of trauma and / or get closer to emotional listening support teams.