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Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I think this is right on target, and not offensive at all.

People tend to want to "own" tragedy, when as you say, they were not directly involved. I find it quite annoying when they do.

I'm the student whom you are pointing out in your post here, and I ask that next time you do a bit more research into your target when you seek to make a point.

I've been writing about and working on the issue of post-traumatic stress in our returning veterans for the past 2 1/2 years, have testified before congress in December at a House Veterans Affairs Committee on the issue; I'm also a student who was seated by a doorway immediately across from Cole Hall as kids ran in to seek safety from the shooter.

I was locked down with that group of 15 or so students for an hour; some students were terribly shaken up and worried about their friends still in the building, and all of us were unsure of our own safety for a period of time.

We all witnessed students being removed from the building, and the shock is real and raw as it should be for anyone who was in that vicinity.

As an older student who had a lot of research on trauma reaction at her fingertips, I have been reaching out to students in big and small ways. Yesterday, a column I wrote to the students appeared in the Northern Star. As a writer, that was one way that I tried to reach out to others to share what I know about dealing with trauma.

This one small effort I decided to take part in (but had not spearheaded) on Monday as students returned to class was but one of many, many unsung efforts on my part and the part of others in our community since the events of that day. Reaching out helps them -- and it helps me, too.

This type of post, however, does nothing but contribute negativity to the situation. I find it callous and cold that you would write in such a way about a stranger, and while I feel your post doesn't deserve acknowledgment, I believe strongly that your track on this issue is wrong-headed and serves no purpose whatsoever.

How does your post contribute anything of value to what has happened at NIU? You characterized your post as both cynical and offensive, and I would heartily agree with your own assumptions. You would have been better served had you practiced a bit more self-restraint.

One final suggestion: You might consider Googling the name of the person you decide to make some sort of failed observation of. If you'd done that, you might have seen my work, and you might have thought twice before interjecting *yourself* into a situation that you have no clear business of being in.

Perhaps you should answer the question proposed by your own commentary: Who is the real crisis fly here?

Searching for your name in the news and in the blogs? Another moment of fame? Yeah, I know, someone else referred you here. Save the self-agrandizement for someone else. I care about people who are suffering. There are real victims at NIU and help is available to them. I worked in the state university counseling system. I know many people in it, I know people who work at NIU and I know parents of students there. What I don't like is all the woo performance art surrounding other people's tragedies.

Your response is mystifying. Do you always believe the worst in people?

It's called 'Google Alerts' and I -- along with most other humble writers/authors or public figures who don't have their own public relations departments -- have them automatically set up to arrive for certain keywords. Mine are "ptsd," "combat ptsd," the name of my book, and my name.

I didn't seek this post out that referenced me -- you literally sent it to my Inbox via a Google Alert when you included that quote with my name in it.

Had I known what hostility your post contained (the title 'NIU Gets Group Hug' didn't give me an appropriate warning), I never in a million years would have bothered to click on it. What is very sad about this situation is not only the bent of your original post, but your follow up. It's so hostile and filled with such contempt for people.

While we've been going back and forth with this attack you've started on me personally, the main focus is and should be this: Your initial post completely disregards the reality that a simple act like giving returning students a hug and a listening ear was greatly appreciated -- and even needed -- by some of them who accepted. Many said "Thanks, I needed that," and many said more than that.


I can tell from your response that you are not someone who believes in the good in people, but that you rather prefer to seek out the very worst.

Very sad. I bid you peace.

You're right. I wouldn't know anything about setting up Google to notify me about comments written about me in cyberspace. It wouldn't occur to me to do that. That such a notification reached you is entirely your doing, not mine.

As for the good in people, I believe that there is enormous good in some people, but there is also bad in many people. There is vanity, there is attention-seeking and there is exploitation of the suffering of others carried out in the guise of help.

With all your journalist's expertise on PTSD, it didn't occur to you that hugs, puppies and cookies (the post wasn't only about you) don't do anything for PTSD. Infantilizing students and faculty, treating them as if they are so fragile and needy that you have to force interventions on them, emphasizes the weakness of the community. It is not therapeutic or helpful; it encourages regressive reactions.

Has it occurred to you that displaying a hug sign and initiating hugs with strangers who haven't sought hugs from you might also lead people to suspect that you're the needy one? Have you considered that some recipients of your hugs might be telling you what they think you want to hear rather than what they really feel? See, I do believe that people can be kind. And I get concerned about helpers using victims to unconsciously gratify their own needs. Among clinicians, the idea that helpers might unconsciously gratify their own needs under the guise of helping is not a novel or particularly controversial idea.

You're expecting a pass from me on this, but as a writer, you've pushed yourself on to the stage in the trauma intervention field -- writing about PTSD, testifying before congress, setting up googe alerts and arguing here for the goodness of your own interventions. I'm not part of the PR arm of your budding journalistic career. I'm a clinician who is concerned about what I see as a pattern of infantilizing, destructive crisis response that has developed in recent years. These responses often seem to serve the unhealthy inclinations of responders, potentially at the expense of people who are in need of assistance.

"...a pattern of infantilizing, destructive crisis response that has developed in recent years. These responses often seem to serve the unhealthy inclinations of responders, potentially at the expense of people who are in need of assistance."

I agree with this, based on personal experience. Quite honestly, the in the face open arms hug attempt not only would be annoying, but also would have been an insult to my own ability to have returned [for example]to campus that day, based on my own self-determination and goal.

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