Blog: Perspective on Trauma

Desensitization: Kindling for Emotional Defense

by LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW on June 29, 2020 3 comments

The pain in our world feels both big and broad today. As, I watched the morning news another young man has lost his life in police custody and another story surfaces of a young man who lost his life to police violence last year. These names, these lives lost, are added to a growing list of individuals of color who have lost their lives to police brutality or  gun violence in our country. Names that we all recognize, and know the public details of their horrific deaths, are memorialized in our headlines and minds.

The names, and lost lives, of Adrian Ingram-Lopez, and Elijah McClain are added along side Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, Brionna Taylor, Manuel Ellis, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Emmett Till , George Floyd, and the many we do not know of. These crimes against our own American citizens occur at an alarming rate and, in the aftermath of Mr. Floyd’s public murder, a more public rate.

As these stories, and the painful reality they bring, swirl in our collective awareness daily confirmed Corono virus cases and deaths are simultaneously reported. With each rising number on our screen, someone’s loved one, loses his or her battle against covid-19. Another family must navigate the long and painful journey of grief.

These reports are made against the backdrop of a country whose leadership appears to politicize safety and many are left feeling hopeless and fearful. The growing sense of futility, fed by the reality playing out before us, needs resolution. It takes a strong psychological structure to withstand what is before us. And, an even stronger one to remain hopeful in its midst.

To desensitize means to make (someone) less likely to feel shock or distress at scenes of cruelty, violence, or suffering by overexposure to such images. In psychology the term systematic desensitization is used to describe the process by which a client may find resolution to a phobia or neurosis through gradual (real or imagined) exposure to the problematic issue. It is this, that has my own mind worried today.

As the last moments of our fellow citizens repeatedly play out before us, many at the hands of the system in place to protect us, we maintain consistent knowledge of death and virus spread while concurrently navigating our newly adjusted (safety conscious) lives. Clearly stated, it is to much to manage without distraction or defense. It is human nature ( a built in safety mechanism) to avoid, run from, or fight against pain. In the midst of so much, one may find themselves avoiding, distracting, or shutting down.

Many of us are empathetic people and easily commit to helping others. Working to do what is right and doing this (right action) until it no longer needs to be done. It will take a strong resolve, in this climate, to manage all that is occurring  without succumbing to desensitization. We should never become callous to the pain of another and taking informed steps to protect both ourselves and others is a must. Remaining vigilant to the process of desensitization seems a necessary ingredient. It will take informed effort. Holding an understanding that desensitization is a normative response to painful content will help and, as stated,  being purposeful in your intention to maintain commitment to care for both self and other, will assist in this process.

We can protect ourselves and our larger world from desensitization through awareness, solid information, purposeful action, and self care.

Awareness, means maintaining awareness without saturation. It is important to know what is occurring in our larger world, community, and immediate environment. Holding these truths in mind, while making conscious choice in navigating what is occurring without singular focus is important. Further it is highly important to gain information from trusted sources (sources without vested interest) and to take purposeful action. Your own purposeful action will be unique to you. It may mean belonging to an organization, donating time or money to an organization, writing letters to the legislature, helping people in your life navigate this difficult time, living a life that models safety, awareness, kindness, and standing up for what is right. There are as many ways to take purposeful action as there are individuals. Lastly, as I often write about, it is important to actively engage in selfcare. Selfcare implies, adequate sleep, hydration, nutrition, exercise, relationship, engagement in hobbies that you love, and social and spiritual connection.

In my recent blog post Collective Pain and Unrest, A Change is Needed, Resources for taking direct action to assist families, legal pursuit, and social change were provided.  I will add these here and add known resources for Elijah McClain.  These resources are added along with National resources for protecting and supporting emotional health is this difficult time.

Please note, I was unable to locate a support page for Adrian Ingram-Lopez if you are aware please share it with me and I will add it to this post, or please post the resource in the comment section,

Black Lives Matter 

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 

Justice for Elijah McClain      (Change,org)

Ahmaud Arbery: I run with Maud GO Fund Me: 

Justice for Ahmaud Arbery! I Run with Maud!- Legal Support

George Floyd Memorial Fund (Go Fund Me): Memorial fund 

The family of Mr. Floyd provided the following address in the event individuals may want to send support, cards, or letters.

The Estate of George Floyd: C/O Ben Crump Law, PLLC. 122 S. Calhoun St. Tallahassee, Fl 32301. Attention: Adner Marcelin

Scholarship and Unity Fund in Honor of Eric Garner: In support of families impacted by gun violence.

The Freddie Gray Fund: Family support and Memorial Fund.

The Trayvon Martin Foundation: A Non-Profit Organization for families who have lost a child to gun violence.

Tamir Rice Foundation: An after school growth and enrichment program for children, and police accountability Program.

National Supports: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-(800) 273-8255. The National Children’s Advocacy Center 1 (800) 422-4453 The SAMSHA Treatment Locator (for treatment of alcohol or substance addiction) 1 (800) 662-4357. The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1 (800) 787-3224. The National Sexual Assault Hotline 1 (800) 565-4673 TalkSpace or Betterhelp

Professional Disclaimer: It is important to recognize that all information contained in the Perspective on Trauma Blog is informational, and is not intended as a substitute for clinical care. It is not possible to provide informed care through web content, as an informed treatment relationship cannot be formed. If you or a loved one is in need of care, it is important that you access this care from your own care provider.

Agreement of Use: In consideration for your use of and access to the Perspective on Trauma Blog, you agree that LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW is not liable to you for any action or non-action you may take in reliance upon information from the blog. As noted, it is not possible to provide informed (personalized care) through blog content. It is your responsibility to seek individual clinical care from your own provider, who will know or learn your specific circumstances, should care be needed. It is further your responsibility when donating to ensure the privacy of your information and comfort with stated purposes of funding organizations and Go Fund me campaigns. LaDonna Remy, MSW, LICSW is not affiliated with the organizations provided.

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LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSWDesensitization: Kindling for Emotional Defense


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  • Lisa Remy - July 1, 2020 reply

    Thank you for putting this informative piece together. It’s so sad that it should even have to be written let alone the fact that some may be unaware of what is truly happening to our lives as we “knew” it. I have seen or maybe just started paying more attention to the fact that we as a country are even further divided than we have ever been before, or so that is the feeling. All you need is love.

    LaDonna Remy - July 1, 2020 reply

    Thank you Lisa. I appreciate your feedback and your reading my blog. It truly is a time of great transition and I think you are very correct, a divided country. I like your statement about love. If each person could remain mindful for self and other, it would go a long way. I appreciate you.

  • LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW - August 24, 2020 reply

    Thank you. I do think it is a very important topic. I appreciate you reading and commenting.

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