Talking about trauma is almost always talking about nuances, exceptions, and shades of grey. 

A behavior that MIGHT be a trauma response for you, might not be one for me. 

Trauma is often not obvious. It’s often sneaky. It’s often hidden. 

One of the reasons why trauma is so misunderstood and invisible is BECAUSE it’s so sneaky— BECAUSE it crops up in so many ways that are unique to individuals. 

That doesn’t stop some people from trying to talk about trauma as if it’s black and white or easily observable. 

Sometimes those people have good intentions— they want to raise awareness of some of the ways trauma responses can manifest in the real world. 

But often, attempts to talk about trauma in broad, sweeping terms end up creating the illusion that trauma is more straightforward than it is. 

You’ll almost never see serious trauma informed therapists say, categorically, “X is a trauma response.”

What you MIGHT see from real trauma therapists is, “X, which isn’t commonly thought of as a trauma response, CAN BE a manifestation of one— here are some things to think about.” 

Unfortunately, a lot of people out there are VERY interested in using the “t” word to build their brand. 

They’re capitalizing on the fact that trauma has been so invisible, for so long, that large numbers of people are out there aching to have their trauma seen and validated— and in their rush to BE seen and validated, those survivors will be willing to overlook the lack of nuance embodied by some of these messages. 

I really hate this. 

Trauma survivors have often been treated like commodities in their lives for…years. 

Pretending that trauma looks or acts the same, person to person, life to life, story to story, oversimplifies an incredibly complex, still misunderstood, still under-researched phenomenon. 

Even more alarming, to me, is the fact that when people who should know better make flat statements like “X is a trauma response,” it makes it likely that survivors whose experience does NOT match “X” will get up in their head about “wait…was what I endured actually trauma, if I don’t do X?” 

All of this might sound silly or pedantic — but the truth is, many survivors have been conditioned to believe that what they went through wasn’t, couldn’t POSSIBLY be, “traumatic.” 

I am a trauma specialist. Many survivors who end up working with me have tried EVERY other type of behavioral health professional there is. They’ve done mental and emotional BACKFLIPS to avoid the truth that what they went through, affected them. 

When we introduce variables that might make it easy for a survivor to slip back into denial about their trauma, we’re not doing them any favors. 

I don’t so much want you thinking about “trauma.” 

I want you thinking about YOUR trauma. 

I don’t want you thinking about whether “X” is a trauma response. 

I want you thinking about whether the way YOU do “X” MIGHT be informed by trauma. 

I don’t want you comparing notes with anyone else who identifies as a trauma survivor.

Their story and struggles may have limited relevance to your trauma recovery journey— but we often struggle to acknowledge that our journey might have a dramatically different trajectory from theirs when we’re playing the Comparison Game. 

Do not get in your head about internet posts that flatly declare what is and isn’t a trauma responses. 

Remain attentive to and curious about YOUR experience. 

YOUR needs. 

YOUR priorities. 

What’s going to get YOU through THIS day in one piece. 

Let “them” argue about what is or isn’t a trauma response— for whatever good THAT argument does. 

You focus on YOUR real life, real world trauma recovery. 

One day at a time. 

One thought on “Black and white statements about trauma are never true. (Er, except this one.)

  1. YES.
    People for whom a certain experience was not traumatic can feel unbalanced and isolated because once again they are being told that they’re wrong about what they experienced — and THAT is the trauma for them, that their own experience is denied, that they are told again and again that they are lying to themselves because “everybody reacts the same way” and “nobody feels like you do”. Being told over and over that you are “nobody” can be awful for some — yet others will rear up thinking, “Well, I’ll show them!” People are weird. The more weird I realize I am, the more I know I’m human. I’d just like to be accepted from time to time without being told I’m wrong about what I feel, or that I’m making claims that aren’t true.

    Liked by 1 person

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