Subscriber OnlyYour Wellness

The events may be far away, but the feelings of hopelessness and grief are with us

We need to appreciate the good things that are happening to us in our lives. We need to do it because otherwise the darkness wins

I cannot be the only one who, when I see young children playing, is struck by the thought that if they were in Gaza they might have been blown to bits by now.

The reaction illustrates the psychological effect on ourselves as observers of a far-off war. The effects are nothing compared to those on Palestinians of the war itself or on Israelis following the October 7th Hamas attack, a truly nightmare event.

We observers are left with hopelessness and grief and though the events are long distance, those feelings are inside our own bodies. We also experience helplessness. Marches, such as those in Ireland calling for a ceasefire, are an expression of the human need to counteract that, to do something.

Prime minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu, as I write this, doesn’t seem to be listening to calls for a ceasefire. Yet, such marches put pressure on democratic politicians to continue to advocate for peace.


We need to be able to handle the emotions that will arise during and after the war. Some research suggests that exposure to the kindness of other people helps to reduce the effects on us of seeing violent events on the news. So perhaps be kind?

When the rebuilding of Palestine begins, we can gain some sense of control by contributing to that, whether through bodies such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency or Unicef.

For myself, I find I need to make sense of the historical side of what happened. I try to find threads connecting past and present. I see what is happening today as going back to, though not justified by, centuries of oppression of Jews in Europe.

I’ve been looking at a photograph of Jews in London marching to plead for British intervention to end the slaughter of Jews by their neighbours in Europe long, long before the Holocaust. As the Times of Israel put it: “From 1918 to 1921, more than 1,100 pogroms killed over 100,000 Jews in an area that is part of present-day Ukraine.”

And then came the horror of the Holocaust. At the end of that awful, unforgettable nightmare, did Europe atone by offering Jews their own country – they’d have had a strong moral case – within its borders? Unthinkable of course, but what wasn’t unthinkable was the dispossession of faraway Palestinians.

Like, I think, most Irish people, I despise anti-Semitism. And, like most Irish people, I believe the Palestinians have suffered injustice for many decades. Even on October 8th, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper accused Netanyahu of “establishing a government of annexation and dispossession”.

But “Israel bad, Palestine good” doesn’t work either. I have read the details of The New York Times investigation of the Hamas attack of October 7th. The utter cruelty, the unspeakable depravity, of some of the attacks that were made on women in particular will stay with me for life. Now my stomach turns when I see mention of Hamas in relation to negotiations on this war.

But Europe has to plead for ceasefire and has to be ready to advocate on behalf of the people of Gaza who themselves have been under the oppression of Hamas. I might add that courageous voices in Israel and courageous Jewish voices around the world speak out against a continuation of the war.

What can we do to protect our own mental health in all this?

One way might be to limit exposure to shocking images on TV and social media but get our information from written news reports.

We can avoid any temptation to fall into anti-Semitism because historical anti-Semitism is, in many respects, the root of all evil when it comes to what is happening now.

We can be willing to see tax money from Ireland as well as other European countries going into the rebuilding of Gaza.

We can deliberately give head space also to appreciating the good things that are happening to us in our lives. That also is important. We need to do it because otherwise the darkness wins.

  • Padraig O’Morain (Instagram, Twitter: @padraigomorain) is accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His books include Kindfulness - a guide to self compassion; his daily mindfulness reminder is available free by email (