Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Day 23 of 31

"Trauma is trauma". That's what I say to people when they talk about their own struggles. It's not about comparisons. Whatever you struggle with is what you have to learn to deal with.

And yet, sometimes when I hear people throwing around terms it irks me -- no, actually it infuriates me. It makes me angry.

The first time I noticed it was in the grocery. Someone said the prices on foods made him feel as if the manufacturers were just raping the consumers. Whoa! I don't think so, not even close. The price of cereal compared to being raped? 

I remember after 9/11, my therapist (at the time) saying the whole nation was suffering from PTSD, and I felt belittled. Maybe there was some truth in it, but it made my personal story feel unworthy. What I heard was "Get over it. Look what all these other people are going through." I don't think that's what he meant, but still . . . 

I've said it before and will no doubt say it again, I am a words girl. Definitions are my bread and butter. I live by definitions. 

Trauma -- a : an injury (as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent
b : a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury
c : an emotional upset


That cuts a wide swath. Judith Hermann in her book Trauma and Recovery says it this way -- . . . simplistic efforts to quantify trauma ultimately lead to meaningless comparisons of horror. The salient characteristic of the traumatic event is its power to inspire helplessness and terror.

So maybe my theory that trauma is trauma needs to be updated by remembering what trauma really is. Having a bad day is not trauma. Thinking you or someone you love is about to die is trauma. 

Did I believe I would die? Did I feel powerless and helpless in those of moments of abuse? You bet I did. At times the abusers told me how they were going to kill me. At other times the pain and horror were so intense I couldn't imagine surviving. 

So what's the point of all this? I guess, it's to remind us all to think before we speak. And I'll keep working on listening with a discerning hear. Trying to hear what you mean even when what you say irks me.

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