The Trauma Roller Coaster
Have you ever read a social media post that starts out something like this… “To the person who just stole my purse in the Kroger parking lot.” Or “To the person who just cut me off on I-4 and almost made me wreck my car.” First of all, let’s get real. The person who stole your purse or cut you off in traffic is never going to see your post. But here is who does see our posts: our social media family, friends and followers. People who have decided they want to be linked to us.
Many of them may already be having a bad day or just received some less-than-stellar news. They may be trying to dig themselves out of a pit at that moment–something in their life may have just gone from bad to worse–and they are working overtime to stay positive. When they read a trauma rant, they may have just listened to a faith-building message and are starting to see some light at the end of their tunnel.
Then just as the sun begins to shine a little and they hear the chirp of birds again, their eyes fall on words that cause them to lose their footing and descend a few notches. Without buying a ticket, they have been plopped into a seat on someone else’s trauma roller coaster and dragged along for the ride.
After a trauma dump, the one who did the dumping may feel better–cathartic, even–but to the one on the receiving end, studies show that the person now feels “horrible”. After learning of someone else’s trauma, when you weren’t prepared to hear it, common reactions are: anxiety, stress, feeling helpless and even depressed.
The purse snatcher or the reckless driver is out there going on with life. The trauma dumper feels better with the emotional release. But the innocent “dumpee” bears the brunt of the unfortunate situation. And this is supposed to be a friend! Just think, most people have hundreds, if not thousands, of people this influences all at once.
Traumatic experiences are disturbing and distressing. I’m not arguing that. What I am suggesting is be cognizant of who should hear about it and when. Instead of vomiting trauma on thousands of unsuspecting, unprepared people at once, find one or two trusted people that would be a safe, confidential place to discuss what you’ve gone through. But first, ask them if they have time, brain power and emotional reserve to handle it.
In some cases, if the trauma is extreme or long-standing, it may necessitate professional help. Getting professional help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength to reach out to someone trained in this area and say, “Hey, I need a hand here. I need someone to throw me a rope.”
Plus, somebody may read your traumatic event and it could be a horrible trigger for them and now they have to relive what they went through, even though they may be well down the healing road. If their purse was once stolen, imagine the panic it could cause to their psyche.
Philippians 4:8 in The Passion Translation starts out by addressing “brothers and sisters”–those you know, those in your life, those you have a relationship with. Here is the advice it gives:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Whatever our thoughts are fixated on, that is what we talk about. That is what we share. This is the guideline we have been assigned–things that are right, lovely and admirable.
So, should our trauma be bottled up? No. A steam kettle will eventually blow. But trauma should be shared in the right environment at the right time, with the hearer’s permission.
When I go to an amusement park, I stay away from the roller coasters. Being whipped into a frenzy at high speeds can cause injury. If someone were to forcefully strap me into one and push the start button, I would be extremely upset. The same is true with emotional roller coasters. No one should be strapped in and dragged along without their permission.
But things that are honorable, lovely and admirable–the Word of God gives us the green light to share any time and with everyone.
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