For those of you that have tuned in to watch the four part Netflix miniseries, “When They See Us”, directed by Ava Duvernay capturing the story of the five falsely accused and wrongfully convicted Black boys, it is by no surprise that you may be “feeling some type of way.” Over the last couple of days I have seen many posts on Facebook and Instagram trying to find the words to articulate and describe what viewers are feeling after watching the series. I have seen several posts from people expressing feelings of anger, sadness, irritation, lack of hope, isolation, and basically just being “PISSED OFF”. While many have been able to find the words to describe the feelings they felt in the moment and following the series, I also noticed and paid attention to those that felt “numb.”
Then there were those like me who decided not to watch the film series right away for various reason. I recall studying this case in undergrad in my criminal justice program and watching the 2012 documentary regarding the case. I remember feeling unsettled, disturbed, emotionally upset, and angry with the criminal justice system back then. Fast forward 2019, following the numerous senseless killings of unarmed Black men and women by the hands of police officers, the unrest in cities following not guilty verdicts, and me now having my own Black son…I CAN’T DEAL WITH THE HURT. With that being said, I have decided like many others to refrain from watching the series right away. To allow myself the appropriate amount of time to be able to watch the series while also being able to take care of my “whole self” (mentally, emotionally, and spiritually).
- Limit your time on social media. With the series being newly released, many people are using their social media channels to share their thoughts and feelings about it. You may find it comforting to participate in the conversations and to find community with others sharing your feelings, but it might also be overwhelming. When we become immersed in highly charged conversations, it sometimes results in a compounding of whatever we were already feeling. So if you were already feeling hopeless after watching the series and then see several friends on Facebook sharing their feelings of hopelessness, it may make your feelings more intense. So monitor your feelings and how much time you’re spending on social media. Take breaks when necessary or mute certain words or people if you find the conversations triggering for you.
- Take time to identify, acknowledge, and process your feelings. Being able to pinpoint exactly how you’re feeling during and after watching the series may be really helpful for you in figuring out how to manage your feelings. One way you can do this is through journaling. What kinds of thoughts are you having about the series? Were there particular scenes that felt more impactful than others? What about the series reminds you of experiences you or loved ones have had in your own life? Allowing yourself to really tap into what impacted you about the series can give you helpful information about next steps and where there may be some work to do on your own healing.
- Engage in an activity that allows you to connect to yourself and others. When we’re feeling flooded by emotions, it can be helpful to participate in activities that allow us to feel more connected to our bodies and to others. Try something like going for a walk or a run, listen to your favorite meditation track, take a little person in your life out for ice cream, or grab your girls and head to your favorite restaurant and really pay attention to the flavors of the food you eat. Any of these or others you come up with may help to recharge you and improve your mood.
- Practice a grounding technique. If you’re feeling particularly impacted and like your feelings are out of control and difficult for you to manage, try a grounding technique. Grounding techniques are designed to help you stay in the present moment and connect you to reality. One of my favorites is the 5 Senses Grounding Technique. Sit up straight with your feet planted firmly on the ground and take note of 5 things you see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
- Take action in your community. Often, feelings of helplessness are remedied by doing something to get involved with preventing others from being mistreated in our communities. If you’re feeling anger, resentment, and disgust towards the legal system after watching the series, your feelings are valid! It may help to get involved in a program in your area that does advocacy work for those accused of committing crimes. A great place to start is The Innocence Project which shares lots of information about how you can get involved either locally or globally.