Trauma was once thought to be rare. Until just a couple of decades ago, even mental health professionals defined trauma as an event “outside the range of usual human experience” – but as Ellen Hendriksen explains, that was before a 1995 study revealed that 61 percent of US men and 51 percent of US women had experienced at least one trauma.
Discussing past traumas is vital to recovery, Hendriksen notes, although humans usually loathe the idea of talking about the worst things that have happened to them.
Discussing a painful experience can feel humiliating or terrifying, and trauma isn’t neat and tidy – it’s bewildering and chaotic, and when the natural healing process is interrupted, the result is PTSD. At the core of PTSD is avoidance – turning away from anything that reminds us of the incident, including talking about it. A vicious cycle ensues.
And while trauma often occurs person-to-person – assault, rape, crime, violence, atrocities of war, mass shootings, much of the healing also happens person-to-person, according to Hendriksen.
Even though it’s difficult, she says there are many reasons to talk about trauma. Whether it’s validation, understanding, being seen, or empathy, talking with someone (or many someones) who gets it rids survivors of feelings of isolation.
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