FROM: Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D.

Director: La Sociedad de Guadalupe;

Member: Hispanic Journalist Association;

Jungian Psychoanalyst: Specialist in Critical Incident and Post-Trauma Management



Over a period of time you may find yourself having one or all of the following reactions. These are normal reactions to the kind of experience you have had:

Physical Reactions:

  • Fatigue
  • Inability to sleep
  • Sleeping too much
  • Exhaustion
  • Changes in appetite, digestive disturbances
  • Feeling numb
  • Crying
  • Need for Comfort
  • Sleep disturbance; nightmares, night terrors

Behavioral Reactions:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Poor concentration
  • Inability to attach importance to anything but this event
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares,
  • Recurrent dreams
  • Inability to remember
  • Refusing to talk
  • Feeling one should not cry
  • Startle reactions while awake or asleep
  • Isolating, wanting to be alone.
  • Wanting to just sit, or just stare.

Psychological Reactions:

  • Feelings of fear
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Feeling one cannot stop crying
  • Anger, which may cause the blaming of others, passionate outbursts
  • Frustration with rescue workers, the bureaucracy, anyone who tries to help.
  • Ongoing violent fantasies,
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Amnesia
  • Thinking no one can ever understand, no one can ever help.
  • Secret keeping
  • Blaming oneself.

These are NORMAL reactions, and although painful, are part of the healing process. There is not a lot anyone can do to make you not experience these feelings, but they will recede if you will take the following actions:



  • Within the first 24-48 hours, do strenuous exercise coupled with relaxation. Continue thereafter. This will alleviate some of the physical reactions.
  • Keep busy, do not sit and do nothing. You are having a NORMAL reaction, do not tell yourself that you have lost your mind.
  • Talk to people - talk is the most healing thing you can do. Talk it out. You may have to tell your story over and over again, many, many times before it loses much of its pain. Each time you tell your story and receive someone's caring, you will be healing yourself.
  • Try not to cover up your feelings by withdrawing or by using alcohol. Talk your feelings out. As many times as you need to. There is no shame or selfishness in this. You have been through a lot.
  • Reach out to others. They really do care.
  • Spend time with others. Do not isolate yourself. Ask other people how they are doing. Remember they may be shy to tell a stranger of their burden.
  • Remember, each person telling their story over and over is the way to heal.
  • In the ensuing days, find things to do that feel rewarding or refreshing. These need not be big things, but things to balance the tragedy you have been through.
  • When you feel bad, find a person to talk to, and to cry with, to tell of your anger and other helpless feelings. Don't keep it inside. You are vulnerable in these moments; take care to not over-indulge or self-medicate with substances, or other mind-numbing addictions.
  • Your spiritual beliefs will definitely help you through. Cleave to them in full.
  • You definitely will be able to help yourself and others better if you will cleanse your feelings and accept caring from others.

We all wish to be brave and strong in the face of disaster. We all wish to be looked up to for our endurance and our efforts to help others. If you truly care for humanity, include yourself in their numbers, by giving your own inner feelings the voice and the dignity they so deeply deserve.


©1999-2018 C.P. Estés. All Rights Reserved.