In my day, trauma was reserved for the big stuff. Losing a loved one, being in combat, being severely abused as a child or something along these lines.
Today, I was reading a few pages of a blog where people were talking about “trauma”. They spoke of being criticized online, having a cousin masturbate in front of them when they were teens, and daddy not being as physically affectionate to them as they wished. I think maybe we’ve gone astray.
So how does this all tie into everything I talk about in my Foundations series? If we feel the way we think, as has been shown by so many scientists over the last forty years or so, then it would seem that trauma itself is a condition whereas we get stuck in negative feedback loops about an activating event. (If you are unfamiliar with these terms I would urge you to watch or read my Foundations series).
So how did we get from my generation where an activating event needed to be something so severe to trigger a negative feedback loop to today where just someone disagreeing with a person can send them scurrying for a safe space?
Somewhere along the line we stopped telling kids of all ages that they were not responsible for themselves and their emotions. We went from “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” to telling our youth that words hurt. That certain words have some magical power to traumatize them.
Once we told them that sound waves from someone else’s vocal chords had power over their emotions it was an easy step for these children to conclude that they were powerless to stop their emotions. That they were blameless for their own reactions to words. Now if words can hurt them so much, anything beyond words must be devastating. A fight at school? Traumatized for life. A family member not showing love? A life altering action.
We are now so far removed from the reality that we feel the way we think that it’s almost impossible for what I teach to get through to people of my children’s generation. They simply cannot fathom that they are the cause of their own emotional disturbances. Our current grade schools, colleges and universities are so invested in this idea that words hurt that they are now actively lobbying against free speech (See the events at Yale recently). They are implicit in telling and teaching our kids that it’s somebody else’s fault when they get upset.
Why is this such an important topic? If we are no longer teaching people that they control themselves and their emotions we are headed for a mental health catastrophe. In reality, we are already there. We medicate our youth and ourselves to treat any emotions we deem unacceptable. We drag our kids and ourselves into the doctors office and demand that they give us a pill so we can stop being miserable. We demand that people watch what they say to us because their words might hurt us. We call criticism bullying or bigotry. We tell the world that words written on a page have as much an impact on us as war on soldiers. We have, in general, stopped trying to do the single most important thing we can do to help ourselves – teach ourselves that how we think of an event will control how we feel about an event. It’s just so much easier to take that pill instead and feel nothing at all.
We don’t understand that we have the power within ourselves, with work, to overcome any trauma. We can overcome most all that mentally disturbs us, we just have to give ourselves the opportunity. We fail to understand that words, not matter what they are, no matter what the intent of the person using them, cannot hurt us unless we let them. If we cannot understand that, then what hope is there that we, as a society, will ever understand that our past cannot effect our present unless we let it? That, like words, things not actively happening to us now cannot effect our present. It is what we tell ourselves about that past that effects our now.
Things to think on.