Learning That Trauma is Subjective
By Kirsty

I often refer to the traumatic events that triggered my depression, but it was only very recently I began to think of them as traumatic. Two years ago or so I was contemplating how a few various types of therapies might be beneficial to me. Might help me get better. One therapist I consulted suggested a therapy most commonly used with people who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She suggested EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy.

“Really?” I thought. “I don’t have PTSD. Seems a bit extreme.”

Learning That Trauma is Subjective. Trauma is subjective. Just because you wouldn’t experience trauma from a particular situation does not mean that somebody else would not.

I didn’t know it was trauma

I read up on it. And it did seem like it might be beneficial (I’ve yet to actually complete a course so no word on whether it actually is). It was the first time I had the concept of trauma connected to what I went through. It had seemed like such a strong word until I started to understand that trauma is subjective.

Some months ago I was….gosh I can’t really remember to be honest….talking or reflecting or maybe simply stewing over it all….and the thought popped into my head again. I thought about how it still affected me nearly ten years on. I thought about the mental scars it had left and how it influenced my daily life and so I did some reading. Through my reading I came to realise that I had in fact been left traumatised by my experiences. Literally so.

I learnt that trauma is subjective

When people think of a traumatic event they usually think of something life-threatening or violent or a great loss. But, as I have come to learn, a traumatic event doesn’t necessarily have to be any of these things. In my case it was

Unexpected
Shocking
Humiliating
Complex
Caused me feeling powerless to stop it. (Apparently, the more powerless you are made to feel the more likely you are to be traumatised by it.)
Deeply, deeply hurtful
Confusing
Betraying
Overwhelming
Repeated regularly and frequently over an extended period of time (2008-2011 or so)

……I don’t want to say intentional, because I don’t believe it was done with the specific intention to hurt or upset me. But later on, they knew I was hurting and they continued with their behaviour. Later still, they knew depression had manifested and still they continued. It wasn’t intentional. But it was hugely selfish.

Often during this time, the level of shock and emotional pain I felt was such that it almost felt like a physical blow to the body, rather than an emotional blow to the mind. It left me reeling.

By and large those close to me made it clear in one way or another that they thought I was over-reacting and being unreasonable. And whilst I appreciate that most were well-intentioned — not all; a few were outright nasty — this caused me to feel even more uncertainty and to berate myself time and again for feeling the way I felt and for not coping. I shouldn’t be feeling that way. I should think of it like this. Etc.

But here’s the thing

“It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event.” — Helpguide.org

“Trauma is subjective — your personal reaction to something. Just because you experience trauma from something does not mean someone else who was at the same event will experience trauma.”— Harley Therapy Psychotherapy and Counselling.

… and vice-versa. Trauma is subjective. Just because you wouldn’t experience trauma from a particular situation does not mean that somebody else would not. Or should not.

Signs and symptoms of emotional trauma include anxiety, insomnia, depression… well, that much is evident.

I will not be shamed

I’m just learning to come to think of ‘trauma’ in relation to what I experienced. To think of it in terms of myself. It’s difficult to accept (me, really?). But it is the case. My experience, whilst nothing to some, has left me traumatised and I will not shy away from saying it. I will not be shamed for it.

Reproduced with permission, originally posted on whatkirstydid


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