“Trauma does not have to occur by abuse alone…” – Asa Don Brown
I feel like in recent years trauma has become a sort of buzzword, similar to gaslighting. It has power when used properly and can be a serious awakening for some people. I know it was for me and I hope it can be for other people too. The issue comes when the word is used so frequently and in the wrong context that it no longer holds meaning.
Here are some myths that we need to unlearn about trauma:
Trauma and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are not the same thing
While trauma can cause PTSD or CPTSD (complex traumatic stress disorder) it is not the same thing. Trauma is an overwhelming event that you experience. PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after a traumatic event is the symptoms of trauma don’t subside on their own time. Not everyone that has trauma develops PTSD. But everyone with PTSD has experienced trauma.
Trauma is reserved for combat veterans and abuse survivors
While it can include both veterans and abuse survivors this blanket statement depletes the validity of everyone else that has experienced it. Trauma is a nervous system response. It can include big events like childhood abuse or domestic violence. But it can also include smaller things like not having you basic needs met, emotional abuse, or chronic instability. Just because you haven’t had one big traumatic event in your life doesn’t mean you haven’t experienced trauma.
You should be able to deal with trauma on your own
This is probably one of the most harmful myths out there. A requirement for healing from trauma is being able to connect with others. Having a trusted, safe person to tell your story to without judgment or trying to find solutions can be a transforming experience. It is not a sign of weakness if you need support healing from your trauma, most people do but not everyone gets it.
You would have handled it better than the person that experienced it
If someone is telling you about their trauma you have to resist the urge to say “If that happened to me, I would have…” or “Yeah that’s like the time this happened to me I….” Each and every situation is different so there’s no way for you to know exactly what they experienced. Most trauma survivors are disappointed in how they responded. That is because if it’s truly trauma your survival mind kicks in and decided what you do, not your logical brain. Because of this, you cannot use your logical brain when it comes back because it wasn’t present in the moment. It doesn’t work like that, no matter how badly you wish you could.
People should move on or get over their trauma
It can be easy to set up a timeline for yourself or others of when you or they should be over the trauma. When they should be back to being how they were prior to the experience. But it’s important to realize that sometimes you can never get over trauma fully. You can learn how to carry it, make space for it, and be able to thrive despite it. But this doesn’t mean they’re over it. So stop expecting them to.
So there are some myths about trauma that everyone should unlearn. Just like recovering from trauma, it’s a process of unlearning these things. Create a safe space for yourself to learn and grow. Once you do see yourself and those around you thrive.