Since the #metoo campaign went viral, many necessary and important conversations have begun. We dragged the truth about sexual harassment and assault into the light of day, exposing the fact that a disturbing amount of people–especially women–have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes. Discussions about support and awareness have taken beautiful seed. Rape culture is finally being acknowledged on a wide-spread scale. But there’s one discussion that, while important, has not been able to take place without sounding horribly offensive. That is the conversation about the fact that not all traumatic experiences are the same.
Let me start by saying this: trauma is subjective. The development of post-traumatic stress disorder and other traumatic responses is not only determined by the inciting event. The victim’s biological makeup, personal history, and support system also play a significant role. As do the nuances of the event, which may not appear in the categorizing of the event. It is possible for one person to be more traumatized by having her breasts fondled on a bus than another person who was forcibly raped–really–simply because of all those factors; even though most people would likely say, if made to choose, that they’d rather have their breasts fondled than be forcibly raped. Our anxieties and personal biases create hierarchies of trauma, but that’s not how trauma actually works. There is no way to say that “my trauma was worse than yours,” and even if there was, it would be a silly, disrespectful thing to say. Take it from someone with PTSD: being traumatized is not something to aspire toward.
Today’s guest post on social systems and PTSD comes from a freelance writer covering some of the ways in which our society worsens the experience of trauma survivors, even while trying to help them. This is an issue near and dear to my heart, which I feel embroiled in personally myself (and have for a while). I have been covering related issues about addiction, and I grateful to guest writer Avery T. Philips for taking on–at least in part–the enormous issue of society’s failing treatment of those with PTSD.
Once you’re done reading this essay, don’t forget to read my exclusive and super honest interview with author Amy Dresner–you can even enter to win a free copy of her book and all you have to do is like, go to Facebook or send a tweet. Seriously. It’s that easy…so do it.
Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.”
Seasonal holidays involve many inherent rituals, but have you considered creating your own protective rituals? I had the opportunity to discuss rituals–both helpful and harmful ones–with psychologist Stanton Peele while researching an article I wrote about addiction for Vice. He describes the ways in which some rituals actually protect people from developing addictions–such as Jewish customs of drinking wine only during certain occasions. He finds that Jews who associate wine in that religious context often find it odd to think of alcohol as a “party drug.” This conversation made me think of the rituals we encounter during the holidays. Can trauma survivors intentionally create protective rituals as a means of coping with some of the extra stress associated with holidays?