Whose Problem is your Trauma Anyway?

Social media is great for sharing ideas, there is a good chance you found this post from a link on social media. The now well known issue is that there are little to no meaningful controls over the quality or validity of that information. It was of “those” types of posts, by a well known person on Instagram, that has me writing this today—their post made me somewhat angry and a lot uncomfortable.

The gist of the post is: it is your responsibility to heal your trauma, that others should not have to walk on eggshells around you, and that it (trauma) isn’t an excuse for bad behavior.

I agree that trauma is not an excuse for behaviors that are harmful to others and, more often than not, to ourselves but here that sentiment is shared with dismissive and judgemental energy. This social media meme suggests that a person with trauma may just want to cure themselves instead of inconveniencing those around them.

When seen for what it is it’s kind of crazy right? In fact—if a friend of yours came to you and said they had healed years of deeply embedded, often systematic, and/or developmental trauma because reading they had been shamed into coherence by a single Instagram post—you’d probably ask them if they were joking, and if they were OK.

And that would be a totally normal reaction, and I know this from my 25 years of being a therapist, coach, and helper for people who want to understand the impact of trauma on their lives:

  1. “Healing your Trauma”—is a personal journey that will have a meaning just for you. Anyone else who tries to tell you what that should look like for you probably has an agenda that serves them.
  2. People with “unaddressed trauma” are often the loudest voices in the room regarding other people’s trauma and how they are not responsible for being somebody else’s trigger.
  3. We cannot know what is going to activate someone else’s nervous system so we cannot avoid everything that may trigger another person. What we can do is be conscious about it and give people the opportunity to consent to the content they are viewing or the conversation they are having. We can be open to someone’s lived experience, how that may affect their interactions with ourselves, and what we can learn from it.
  4. People with trauma don’t want you to walk on eggshells around them—they just don’t want to be shamed, dismissed, or harmed more by people who think they know what healing trauma should look like.
  5. People who have their own criteria about what healing trauma looks like that does not involve your lived experience are dangerous and need to be avoided.
  6. The narrative about walking on eggshells regarding other people’s trauma is victim blaming behavior learned in systems that teach us that blaming somebody else is easier than self reflection and facing our own issues.

The problem with social media posts like this is that they don’t really offer any real solutions, they just prey on your sense of self so they can SHOULD(1) all over you.

What is worse is that the people offering these non-solutions are missing the much bigger picture—a person with trauma communicating their triggers isn’t doing it to be annoying or inconvenient, or make it somebody else’s problem. They are taking active steps to help you include them in your space. Or to put it another way they are taking responsibility to help you not feel like you are “walking on eggshells” around them.

This level of missing the point is the reason why you should go slowly when you are thinking about doing any trauma work.

  1. Consider whose opinion matters, does the post or article or podcast you listened to make you feel shame, or hope?
  2. Would you rather work with professionals who have years of experience that includes some kind of oversight and supervision? People who are not just trauma informed but trauma conscious? Or someone who is a great marketer but not necessarily a skilled partner.

I have seen people in the healing spaces who have created entire careers out of focusing on other people’s trauma instead of addressing their own. I have watched their trauma shame and demean others to a shocking extent. So until we find that magic meme that can cure any deep and well earned traumas and wounds with one reading—I would suggest doing your homework if you are considering giving yourself the gift of releasing your trauma patterns.

Trauma work like many other things in life may not be suited to the imprecise, coarse, instant gratification of social media but it is always worth talking about. Learning to love yourself and include others in a real and meaningful way is much better than any “get well quick” scheme or meme. Working on yourself is like any other investment—you are likely to get as much out of it as you and any partner in your journey is willing to put in.

If you are ready to take the next step in your healing then please feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

(1) Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (a form of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) coined the term “should-ing all over yourself” to describe our tendency to bombard ourselves with shoulds. The more shoulding you do, the more guilty and anxious you feel.

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