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- “I just want it to go away!” – The UAH dilemma
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How would you feel if your campus counseling office set up rooms for you to receive counseling, but the TV news crew was waiting as you came out of the session trying to interview you? Or how would you feel if you were invited to a prayer gathering to receive comfort on the night of a shooting only to get there and have it hijacked as a press conference in order to share information with you? Or, what if you found out that the shooter had not been background checked before they came to teach you, and it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway because the system was broken somewhere up the line? What would be going on inside your mind when, in your grief and pain, you looked around and it seemed like everyone else was moving on, but you couldn’t. In other words, how would you feel if you were a part of the UAHuntsville community right now?
Angry? Frustrated? Lonely? Guilty? Anxious? What about ambivalent? What does that word mean anyway? Well, knowing that might be a key to understanding what is really going on with many of the students, staff, faculty, and administration.
Each campus tragedy and school shooting that we have in our country gives us a little more insight into the angst, frustration, dysfunction, and yes, ambivalence that is seething under the surface in our culture…especially in the lives of our young people.
So, what is ambivalence? Well, it is a kind of defense mechanism that makes decision-making very difficult. And, if a decision is made, ambivalence makes it very hard to stick with that decision. Simply put, it occurs when a person has two or more conflicting emotions at the same time about an issue, person, or thing. Thoughts and actions end up in contradiction with each other. The outworking is often confusing for all parties involved.
A faculty member may be happy and relieved to see extra police and security around campus while at the same time have a disdain for and mistrust of those same law enforcement officers because of the failings that are represented in the system from which they come. A student may have intense feelings of fondness and loyalty to their university while concurrently despising it for the way it has seemingly handled a grievous situation. An administrator may love his or her job but fear coming to work. The list goes on…
“I just want it to go away” seems to be the overwhelming sentiment on campus. Many are stuck in various parts of the grief cycle but do not have the energy or are unwilling to move on or get help. They just want it to go away. Many are suffering from post-traumatic stress and are thinking that, maybe with time, their symptoms will just go away. Loss of sleep, appetite, and ability to concentrate are common. Maybe these symptoms will just go away.
Something that enables the ambivalence virus to do its nasty, destructive work in a person is the need to have the appearance of having it all together. We think, “Well, everyone else seems to be doing alright. Maybe I should be over this by now. I don’t want people thinking I’m weak or weird because I’m still struggling. Maybe I should just press on and maybe these thoughts and feelings will just go away.” American culture breeds independence, and with it, a need to feel as if we can solve our problems ourselves. But we weren’t created that way. We were created to need one another! We were created as relational beings, like our Creator. We weren’t meant to always figure it out for ourselves.
It has been shown that soldiers suffering from PTSD best deal with their trauma in groups. Often, a group of people dealing with the same difficult issue or addiction can be far more effective in aiding someone in their pain than a lone counselor can. Sometimes a small church group or Bible study can bring far more care and comfort into a person’s life than that person’s pastor can. However, ambivalence often keeps us from seeking out this help. And our pride and/or shame help us along in our independent loneliness telling us that someday the problem will just go away.
There is a balloon release on the UAH campus this Thursday. There isn’t anything magical about releasing balloons that will make the problem just go away. But, it is a group activity that has shown considerable benefits in helping folks let go of things so that they can begin to move forward. There will be a discussion on “Where Was God In The Midst Of This Tragedy?” before the balloons are released. This is a question being asked all over the campus, the community, and even the country. Will people come to hear the answer to that question, or will their desire for the issue to just go away (along with their need to have the appearance of doing alright) be strong enough to keep them from coming? I guess time will tell…
To anyone that is still reading this that is dealing with feeling of ambivalence, guilt, fear, anger, hurt, or frustration, please know that you are not alone. For anyone that can’t sleep, has lost their appetite, or can’t concentrate on their work or studies, please know that you are dealing with things that many others are dealing with as well. The effects of trauma and grief do not go away over night. But, they can be dealt with very effectively in relationship.
A good start might be to come and release a balloon that you have written on and watch it disappear into the evening sky while talking with others that are doing the same. Maybe calling the counseling office and scheduling an appointment to talk with someone that understands what you are going though would be appropriate. Maybe sitting down with you friends, pastor, or church group and admitting your struggles will be a good starting place. From personal experience, I would suggest approaching Jesus, as He is a great starting place for your journey.
Ambivalence breeds bitterness, depression, and rage – none of which you want as companions. On the other hand, Jesus promises to take our burdens and give us rest. He actually becomes our place of rest. And as we rest in Him, we find a Wellspring of Life coming from within us that is anything but ambivalent. “Come, follow Me,” He says!
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