Facing Trauma, Not Comparing Trauma

I was watching the Biggest Loser last week and there was a segment in there that really caught my eye.

It was about when the trainers had asked a contestant from Season 8 – Abby Rike shared her story. She last lost her family – husband and two kids – in a tragic care accident that sent her downhill for a stretch in her life where she battled depression and issues around her weight because of it. Now, she is at a point in her life where she took back control and even got remarried. What was both tear-jerking very inspirational was that comment she made to the contestants during the episode:

“It isn’t about comparing journeys, it is about dealing with the hurt that you have.” (paraphrased)

This blew me away and really got me thinking about how much we live in a very traumatized and (negatively) comparatively driven society. Everyone has experienced some type of trauma in their lives and the real trick has been how we marshal our resiliency in order to move forward. Abby’s story also caused me to reflect on my graduate level course I took last fall that focused on diversity and oppression.

Our professor played a video on Peonage that focused on the African America experience in the South after the US Civil War. It wasn’t pretty and there wasn’t a dry eye in the class. The subsequent discussion after the film was pretty heavyweight, where people started sharing some of the traumatic experiences that their own cultures/ethnic group has gone through. What stood out for me the most was something one of the other students, and older Jewish white male, had said:

“We are not ready to really grieve yet as a society (Americans). Until we do, we may never get past these issues of pain and racism and come together in the manner that we should.” (paraphrased)

Both people – Abby Rike and my classmate here – touched upon the need to address trauma in order to move forward. Pain is pain and it always runs deep – the issue is that if we are unable to put the pain within the proper perspective, it won’t allow us to move forward.

Too often we get caught up in not only the searing nature of our pain on an individual/familial/ethnic group/national level, but using that pain as a comparison tool. No two incidents are the same, because no two people are the same. While we know what to generally expect when encountering loss, grief, heartbreak, abuse, violation, it affects everyone differently. So yes, I may never full understand someone else’s trauma, as the same way they won’t ever understand mine. And yes, I shouldn’t use my pain as a reason for me not to reach out and help them, just as I shouldn’t use my pain to allow myself to be helped by others who can truly emphasize with the traumatic experience. It is easier said than done, but most people will tell you in life, it isn’t easy to be truly resilient.

There are many books and self-help tools out there. Therapy is often suggested, but may not be for everyone. Each person has to figure out what they deem to be the best way to move forward, but the first step is being willing to undertake that journey. This is just a friendly reminder than comparing trauma, instead of facing and ultimately growing from it, is a sure way to keep the wounds fresh and us vulnerable all the negatives that surrounds that experience.

psychological trauma

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