“Trauma”-The New Buzzword

2020 became the first year of my life that I experienced trauma with the rest of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve quite an impressive list of traumatic events that I’ve gone through alone. But this was my first sense of shared trauma on a global scale.

Yes, trauma is a heavy word. Yes, I worry that we use it too much and it will lose its emphasis. Yes, I wish there were a better word. Maybe BME, Behavior Modifying Event? But who’s gonna say that?

So for now, we just have to be ok with the idea that a lot of what we speak about in regards to trauma is more like a small-time, non-violent misdemeanor as opposed to a big-time, violent felony. But that begs a few questions. One, does less violent mean less impactful? And two, what is violence? What about mind violence, heart violence, soul violence?

We are in the depths of global transformation, an era of reinvention, redemption and redefining the world in which we live.

And we should embrace this.

Change is not perfect. In reality, it’s chaotic and messy and we’re bound to make a ton of mistakes along the way.

For me what’s most important about this period of time is that we stay open. Problems appear to arise when things become overly clinical, cold, linear and matter-of-fact.

I’m a questioner. Always have been, always will be.

Who are the arbiters of what makes a “fact”? To me, there are very few ways to truly qualify a fact. Life and experience seem to mostly be subjective. Science is bought and paid for by politicians and special interest groups and full or arrogance and ignorance and history, …well? Is it being accurately reported? Is it written to fit political narratives? Is it possible to remove corruption and bias from the arbiters of truth? As soon as we think we know it all, we shut down any other possibilities. Rigid definitions lead to dangerous axioms.

So many “experts” recoil to the ideas of evolving and improving our current standards, approaches and definitions of how we view, label and connect to our world. Instead, many just seem to double down on the work they’ve been doing for the past *insert number of years.* A frequent talking point. The number of years a professional has been doing something often times becomes a qualifier of credibility in their eyes and the eyes of those who seek their opinions but this is a fallible, primitive and ignorant approach to truth. Length of time in a field doesn’t always equal unrivaled wisdom. I understand why they double-down, though. Field veterans put so much time, energy and money into their careers and beliefs that they often become overly attached to out-dated, flawed and irrelevant ideas. They way the ego sees it, losing this attachment means losing all their investment in the subject as well.

And so, this brings me back to the new buzzword. Trauma.

The current global discussion around trauma has attracted some heated debates and controversy.

Some believe that by labeling events big and small “Trauma”, we watering down the meaning. Are we?

It’s a yes and no for me.

There is an obvious global shift in consciousness right now. I began to notice the slightest inklings of it around 2012. It was a slow, yet steady burn for the years following as more and more people became less interested in driving the latest and greatest such-and-such model and more interested in their personal development. And I really saw a steep incline in interest regarding spirituality, growth and self-improvement around 2018. Then 2020 happened, and I think that’s all we needed to finish tipping the scale. With more time on our hands and plenty of hardship to go around, we began questioning our purpose.

Pandora’s box has been fully opened en masse and there’s no going back now.

As a result we are becoming more open-minded as a collective. We are interested in expanding our mind, horizons and pursuing our dreams and our own personal healing. And this last piece is what sparked the world-wide trauma convo. Healing.

We are reevaluating what we’ve always known to be true. It used to be unheard of to claim you had trauma unless you had been through something truly beastly, evil and violent. But we’re reconsidering what it means to be traumatized now. We are realizing that not every harmful event is overt and malevolent but at times more like a slow drip on limestone, slowly carving away at the walls of our hearts. There are some big champions and pioneers taking the lead in the growth and healing revolution but also many naysayers and plentiful opponents to challenge these new ideas.

Personally I believe that taking inventory of our hurts and recognizing how they have shaped our behaviors, responses and the way we relate to the world and others is critical for our individual and personal prosperity.

How-ev-errrrrrr….there are some problems. One being that with the explosion of the “t” word’s popularity, also came the memes and sarcasm. When we take the word trauma and apply it to anything that is even the slightest bit uncomfortable or annoying, we are doing are serious disservice to the meaning as well as disrespecting those with trauma. When we reduce it, marginalize it and make it a joke, it becomes a parody of itself. No one wants their pain to be attached to a word that’s become facetious. So maybe we shouldn’t be “omg so traumatized. no milk for my cereal.”

But I don’t believe that’s the most outstanding issue on the topic of concern. Of much greater gravity, in my opinion, the biggest risk we run right now with the popularity of the term “trauma” and exploring our pains is over identification. Over identification with the word and our wounds.

There are two types of people in the world, those who want to heal and those who don’t.

What do I mean?

Ever met someone who was so attached to their wounds as a part of their identity that it was obvious they weren’t going to let those wounds go? Often times those in this camp will rest their laurels on their suffering. That doesn’t sound like it would make any sense, but it does. The labels, bruises and scars are the accomplishment. The labels are who they are. And so many can become impervious to healing as doing the work to heal poses a genuine threat to their current persona. Healing means losing their identity, losing who they are…

The word “trauma” poses a real particular danger to this camp of people, because it can quickly become just another label to add to the resume of victimhood. Another identity sticker to slap on the bumper of their car, add to their profile, or pin on their jacket.

I may sound insensitive but I’m not. I’m honest. And I have a sincere concern for those in this tribe.

And I’m not saying they aren’t wounded or traumatized. Obviously they are. The reality is, no matter how “small” the issue seems, if someone says they have trauma, I believe them, wholeheartedly. Even if they were saying it “for attention”, for me, this statement doesn’t invalidate those who claim to have trauma, it only confirms it. The need for attention is just one of the many signs that we have unattended-to wounds. There’s a reason people feel the way that they do and I’m not about shaming or telling others what does or doesn’t belong to them in terms of pain and labels- but I do worry about the risk of permanent affiliation. It’s asphyxiating to growth.

Although I do recognize that sometimes, when all we have is pain…it’s easy to make that our greatest accomplishment in life.

I’ve done it. And still do it at times. It’s especially a natural course for those of us who’ve been told to be “strong” our entire lives. We begin to measure our worth by the size of our pain and how well we can take an arrow to the knee. I call it my ‘soul cred’…instead of ‘street cred’, get it? You can always count on me to ruin a joke or find myself amusing when I’m really not.

What I’m really getting at here is that the word ‘trauma’ has attracted a lot of attention and like anything else, there are both pros and cons to this that we need to be aware of.

I seek to see a world rise and throw off their shackles of pain and labels. I desire to see a treat these words with the reverence and respect they deserve and use the wealth of information around the topic of trauma as the tools needed to GROW, not a badge, not an excuse to stay stagnant. But who am I to say? What’s my authority on the subject? Sure, I’m a ‘Trauma Coach’. That’s my label. We all have them. Does that make me any more or less relevant as an experiencer of pain?

Whoever you are, your experience is valid and you don’t need anyone with a title to tell you what you already know.

The buzz around trauma will probably fade some after time but I believe the broadened definition and expanded interest are here to stay-and overall, that’s a wonderful, healthy thing for the world.

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