At first glance these are terrific memes. Who doesn't want to do any or all of these?
Get over it
At face value, they make great sense but in many ways what the memes ask isn't psychologically available or biologically possible.
So, these seemingly motivational memes can be utterly demoralizing to trauma survivors. This series will unpack why. The goal is to heal shame by helping people to compassionately see themselves and others as biological miracles of survival.
This series is intended to
Educate and normalize the trauma response
Stop shaming people for where they currently are on their healing journey.
Why it Matters
The reason this matters is that shame is at the very essence of trauma. During traumatic events, people are overwhelmed by fear and shame resulting from:
A loss of control
Feelings of lowered value or worth and more.
Those ultra-low feelings and energy are a heavy burden to carry.
Even memes saying something like, "Trauma isn't your fault but healing is your responsibility," can further demoralize and shame people.
Many feel like all of their energy is spent just surviving each day. And to those on the edge between life and suicide, the message says, "Just getting through the day isn't enough - you even fail at staying alive." It can pour gasoline on the burning embers of shame. It's no wonder many aren't ready or able to muster the will, courage and effort to heal. Instead of shaming, let's look at how we can understand, celebrate and elevate them.
Shame Problem #1:
Surviving a single traumatic event is rough. Surviving chronic childhood trauma informs every facet of a person's beliefs; how they think, feel, act and react. The thoughts and feelings of shame arising from traumatic events are like gnarled roots that people prefer to leave underground. In fact, virtually all of their survival and coping mechanisms exist specifically to distract, numb, minimize or compartmentalize the feelings of shame and the memories of trauma. So expecting people to heal demands them to face the very thing they have spent their whole lives trying to avoid! If they are in an extra fragile state it's entirely too much to ask.
For others, overcoming a lifetime of conditioning can feel overwhelming and asking them to look at, or do something about their unhealed trauma can be horrifying.
Those feelings are absolutely normal and healthy and deserve our genuine respect. A loose analogy would that of trying to shame someone with arachnophobia into holding a tarantula or making fun of someone with a fear of flying. Shaming someone's phobia is mean-spirited but shaming a trauma survivor is flat-out cruel. That's because the fear responses of trauma survivors aren't phobias; they are very real psychobiological fear responses and survival patterns that developed long ago to protect them. So the inability to do as the memes ask, can further convince them there's something "wrong" with them. Not understanding why it seems so easy for others can reinforce feelings and beliefs of not being good enough and lock them in a shame spiral.
Trauma survivors don't need more "motivational" memes and platitudes. They need understanding and compassion. Part 2 will cover why it's biologically impossible for trauma survivors to just "let go" and explain the shame problems with the other memes listed at the top of this post. To get the whole series and every-day trauma recovery life-hacks, opt-in here. To get the whole series and every-day trauma recovery life-hacks, opt-in here.
Kindly share with all who could benefit from this compassionate understanding.