Does Everyone have Trauma?
Trauma seems to be a controversial term which can be challenging to fully grasp. The recent surge in the use of the term trauma on social media has led to many debates about what trauma is and who has it. More often than not an attack occurs when someone’s trauma seems to be invalidated by a term or description of trauma. In trying to understand the question’ does everyone have trauma?’ it’s essential to recognise that not everyone experiences trauma in the same way, and various factors play a significant role in how it affects individuals. Let’s explore the concept of trauma, its diverse manifestations, and why it’s crucial to acknowledge and address it with sensitivity. Then we’ll explore our fascination with answering the question: does everyone has trauma?
When defining trauma, the main issue that seems to be occurring, especially on social media platforms, is a crossover between how trauma is defined. There seems to be a fierce defensiveness around what trauma is and is not, as well as who does and does not have trauma.
A classic example is when an immigrant parent speaks about their struggles moving from one country to another in awful conditions. This in itself is perfectly understandable but it is often accompanied by a belittling of youth today, born and raised in the West for having anxiety or depression. The comment section of these types of posts is generally filled with anger towards those parents for creating trauma patterns through an expected denial of emotions in younger generations as well as an agreement that those born in countries where there was no war or fighting and where opportunity was abundant couldn’t possibly know what adversity or trauma is.
Likewise, many comedy sketches are formed on this very example of immigrant parents beating their children as a form of discipline with high expressed emotion in the sketch. These videos/reels often go viral. The use of a comedy outlet may be a defence against acknowledging the emotional pain caused by the adversity, however, many people also seem to find solace in this shared experience which gives a way of making some kind of sense of the experience. No doubt this is a way of normalising one’s experience of receiving this punishment through a shared experience. There is a clear reference to adversity with the emotional pain translated into a form that is relatable, digestible and normative. However if it stops there, at the comedic level one can argue this is a resistance to the true acknowledgement of the impact of traumatic experiences.
The Complexity of Trauma
The word trauma is itself complex. A common broad definition refers to trauma as a significant response to distressing or harmful events. However, there are many ways to define trauma ranging from diagnostic criteria to a more therapeutic reference as an emotional wound.
The DSM 5, for example, defines trauma as “actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence” whereas a leading trauma expert Dr Gabor Mate defines it with his classic quote “Trauma is not what happens to you. Trauma is what happens inside you as a result of what happens to you…It is a psychic wound that leaves a scar. It leaves an imprint in your nervous system, in your body, in your psyche, and then shows up in multiple ways that are not helpful to you later on.”
Each trauma expert has their own definition of trauma, but the consensus of therapists now lies in understanding trauma as a unique individual response to any given situation, the impact of which is felt and held in the mind and body. Therefore, some individuals might encounter similar situations without experiencing trauma, while others may find themselves deeply affected. This is because of individual differences on many levels ranging from biological to social.
Does everyone have trauma? It is not easy or correct to assume that somebody has trauma.
We’re all unique, with our own strengths, vulnerabilities, and coping mechanisms. Our biopsychosocial makeup is unique to the point that twins living in the same household with similar upbringings will experience and interpret life experiences differently. These differences play a major role in how individuals respond to events and therefore trauma. Factors like resilience, support systems, and personal coping skills shape the impact of traumatic events. Some individuals may have a strong support network that helps them manage trauma, while others might struggle due to a lack of resources or past unresolved issues. Some individuals feel secure in their upbringing whilst others with a similar upbringing do not. Early life experiences shape our beliefs about ourselves, others and the world and will influence our interpretation of life events and therefore our experience of trauma.
Does everyone have trauma? Everyone will have some level of emotional wound – the depth of it will be dependent on the person.
Recognising Unacknowledged Trauma:
Something I see regularly in my practice is the dismissal of one’s own trauma. It’s common for individuals to have experienced trauma without recognising it as such. It’s very common for people to dismiss their experiences, thinking that others have been through worse or that they should be “strong enough” to handle it. This often falls back to the classic diagnostic definition of trauma versus a therapeutic one.
Whilst each person has unique experiences and reactions the denial of trauma can keep the trauma cycle going. Traumatic experiences can lead to self-sabotaging behaviours as a form of coping later in life and unless there is acknowledgement of the trauma, the person will only try to manage the self-sabotaging behaviour itself without getting to the root cause.
Does everyone have trauma? It will be dependent on the person’s own understanding of their emotional pain and its impact at any given time.
Why do we want to know if everyone has trauma?
There are several reasons why people want to know if everyone has experienced trauma. It could be to normalise experiences – understanding that trauma is a common aspect of the human experience can help individuals feel less isolated. Knowing that others have faced challenging events and emotions can validate our own feelings and struggles, making us feel more “normal.” It could also aid empathy and connection as it allows people to relate to one another, connect and share their stories, and support each other through difficult times.
Learning that others have trauma can also provide a context for individuals to address their own unresolved issues. It encourages us to seek help, process experiences, and work towards healing. It can also be inspiring seeing how people who have faced trauma found ways to cope, adapt, and thrive can be inspiring. It highlights human resilience and the potential for growth even in the face of adversity. It can also promote awareness that trauma is prevalent and can encourage societies to be more compassionate, creating environments that prioritise mental health and well-being. It can lead to the development of better support systems and resources for individuals dealing with trauma.
In essence, wanting to know if everyone has trauma often stems from a desire for understanding, connection, and the hope for a more empathetic and supportive world.
The Importance of Validation:
Acknowledging and validating one’s own trauma is a crucial step toward healing. People who have experienced trauma often carry it within themselves, impacting their mental and emotional well-being. Providing a safe space for ourselves to think objectively about our experiences, how it is defined by others and to think about healing free from judgment, can be incredibly empowering. It may feel scary to think about our experiences from a different perspective and may feel like there is a breaking of one’s family code or even a betrayal of the family, but it will give the space mentally to start to heal. To heal, one must first acknowledge what one has been through.
Seeking Healing and Support:
Healing from trauma is a journey, and having the right support along the way is essential. Therapeutic interventions, such as counselling or therapy, can help individuals process their experiences and develop effective coping strategies. Surrounding oneself with empathetic and understanding friends, family, or support groups can also be invaluable. This can also be in the form of online support, such as following trauma therapist accounts on social media or reading books or blogs such as this one. Spending time reflecting on the information to inform yourself more about trauma will help you understand your own experience and will be an important stepping stone for anyone seeking to understand more about their own experience.
Trauma is a deeply personal experience, influenced by a variety of factors that make each person’s journey unique. If you would like to explore your experience of trauma, contact us today. Dr Kaur or a member of her team will be able to support you on your journey.