Trauma memes have become more prominent in recent years and while some say they're making light of serious topics, an increased number of professionals are highlighting the positives of this trend- decreased feelings of shame, increased sense of community and the fact that it's cathartic for the creator. (Read more about that here and here.) Bessel van der Kolk, psychiatrist, trauma researcher and author of The Body Keeps score says “Trauma is usually about shame and secrecy... And so the way to actually deal with trauma is very much to find people who are there with you and who support you.” I'm with him- I believe that it provides a potentially useful tool in creating awareness, and can form the beginning stages of processing what happened & how you feel about it. After all, that's what trauma has more recently been defined as - your reaction & response to what happened, not so much the event itself.
Things & events that potentially lead to trauma make up a broad category: experiencing violence, war, accidents, being the victim of a crime, bullying or harassment, undergoing scary medical procedures, witnessing a tragic event... Not all distressing events lead to trauma though - trauma specifically refers to the maladaptive response to a distressing event. That also explains why people can experience the same event but be effected very differently- it's all about how the individual experienced what happened. Their previous experiences, personality, support structure, coping mechanisms, etc. all play a role in their reaction. While this revised definition does not at all lessen the initial impact on a person nor should it be used to hold a lighter view of trauma, I believe that it allows us to have heightened empathy as well as hold a greater sense of hope for those who are struggling. After all, adopting this outlook provides the potential of learning coping skills, adopting new ways of thinking, expanding our emotional range, finding or creating meaning, a greater appreciation of life and increased connectedness.
There are many ways and counselling tools available to help a person work through a distressing event or trauma - containment soon after the initial event, trauma debriefing, diffusing, a myriad of body work therapies, traumatic incident reduction, cognitive behavioural therapy, EMDR... all in aid of helping the individual accept & process the event, either before we feel overpowered or when we feel that's it's overwhelmed our brain's ability to cope. These counselling methods have proven to be effective in managing trauma, so help & hope is available!
It's essential that if you've experienced something like this, you get in touch with someone. Memes can be a helpful first step but when you're feeling ready to go beyond that, please reach out.
Post comments, questions and trauma memes below 🙌