The official definition is…
–verb (used with object), -tized, -tiz⋅ing.
1. to lessen the sensitiveness of.
2. to make indifferent, unaware, or the like, in feeling.
The big question as to the truth behind that word is how does one become desensitized to the circumstances either of the world or in our immediate circumstances.
According to Wiki it also occurs when an emotional response is repeatedly evoked in situations in which the action tendency that is associated with the emotion proves irrelevant or unnecessary.
Desensitization is a psychological process that has often been involved in explaining viewers’ emotional reactions to media violence. Research on emotional reactions to violent messages has been concerned with the possibility that continued exposure to violence in the mass media will result in desensitization, that is, that exposure to media violence will undermine feelings of concern, empathy, or sympathy that viewers might have toward victims of actual violence.
What is mentioned above has its valid points but for me it misses out a few key things, perhaps they are dependent on the people involved, perhaps not, you decide.
A person who grew up in Apartheid South Africa could be seen as becoming desensitized to the hatred between races, calling an African a Kaffir second nature. Seeing a policeman beating just another Kaffir on the side of the street a non blinking moment. Putting on alarms and carrying mace an automatic daily process. Hearing a gun shot evokes no shock reactions.
A person not used to that environment might be shocked at witnessing the lack of respect each person holds for another, seeing a the man beaten on the side of the road traumatic and hearing gun shots unnerving.
Are all South African’s desensitized because they grew up in that environment? Are all tourists who come from war torn/similar environments/ganglands desensitized to what they witness?
It all depends on the person and the part they play in the mess at hand. I for one don’t jump at the sound of a gunshot, just before I left the complex next to us had a gun fight/robbery we just closed all our windows and quietened the dog.
Witnessing the beatings and the racism never became a shrug though. For me it showed me what was wrong in the world and what needed to change. It prevented me from joining the ranks of black haters and abusers. Prevention not desensitisation.
Seeing disturbing news and images on the media works the same. If there were no shows about the abuses in the world how would we know what to protect our children against? Would it not stay behind closed doors and would the public not remain oblivious?
The word “desensitized” is a double edged sword for me. Living the life I have led has not done what a lot of therapists said would happen. Instead I have become sensitive to the plight of others and my need to help them greater, it is not only me either, there are a lot of us that have become more sensitive.
What do you think?
Do you think it is dependent on the person, their personality, situation?
As I said, for me its a catch 22, what’s it for you?