The trauma that surrounds us
Trauma had always been a concept I deemed distant.
Like many, I could imagine, I had always identified trauma as something that took the form of PTSD in war veterans, survivors of rape and abuse, witnesses to terrorism. But over the years, I would come to change my concept of trauma and what it means.
The truth of the matter is – trauma is prevalent and all around us, and perhaps even within us. As I would come to realise, trauma is rooted in the feelings of vulnerability and helplessness.
As of right now, our lens of what trauma could look like and what it entails is narrow.
According to The World Mental Health Surveys, amongst nearly 70,000 participants across 24 countries, 70.4% of respondents had experienced at least one type of traumatic event at some time in their life (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment US, 2014).
This came as a shock to me for I was unaware of how common trauma truly is. It’s become an epidemic.
We’d all probably go through a highly stressful event at some point in our lives. Bullying. The sudden loss of someone. Witnessing your parents ugly ongoing battle of divorce. Or perhaps a life-threatening illness when you were younger.
These are all traumatic events that could devastate our beliefs and expectations of the world. Through these experiences, trauma breeds as a way to cope with our new reality that the world is no longer safe and to be trusted.
Growing research in the area of trauma has shown just how profound the impact of trauma is on one’s soul and interpersonal relationships. It’s a common template of many chronic illnesses, diseases and impairments one might experience later on in life – yet we are quick to dismiss it.
We are quick to judge people for their mistakes and mishaps without giving a thought about their earlier experiences and trauma.
Exhaustion, sadness, anxiety, frustration, avoidance and dissociation. These are all common and very natural reactions to the abnormal circumstances people find themselves in the wake of a traumatic event. But what’s important is that we start moving towards becoming a trauma-informed society. Instead of holding judgement, we should embrace the different ways in which trauma may present itself across different individuals.
So how should we take the first step?
We could start by introspection and acknowledgement. We could acknowledge the trauma some of us might have experienced and how it has shaped us to who we are today.
Only by practicing compassion with ourselves could we then hold the space for others who might be healing from their past wounds. We need to look past the labels and get past the judgement.
We’ve been so accustomed to asking each other ‘What’s wrong with you?’ when really we should be asking ‘What’s happened to you?’.