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[–]stickdog[S] 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)


Suppose you get injured in a car accident and suffer some sort of serious but not life-threatening injuries. Your body will have undergone trauma, in the old school physical sense - the sense from which we get the concept of the trauma center. What would you do?

The sensible course of action would be to seek professional medical care. You would not, I hope, set about to learn how to treat that trauma from TikTok, while sitting in the burning car. You wouldn’t expect Discord to diagnose you accurately. You wouldn’t buy a workbook on recovering from a car accident put together by someone with dubious credentials. Instead you’d go see doctors and nurses and physical therapists; you’d secure the services of those who have been designated by society as having the expertise to provide care. You would go in with a certain level of trust and listen to their advice. This care would likely involve both an acute, short-term period and a more extensive, long-term approach. Things wouldn’t get fixed overnight. Different doctors and therapists might have legitimately conflicting opinions on the right course of physical therapy to help you heal from your wounds. And there would no doubt be permanent scars, both literal/physical and metaphorical/mental. But everyone would understand that this medical process had a clear goal: to heal, to move on, to bring the trauma to a close. If you encountered a doctor who forcefully insisted that you would be, forever more, a car accident survivor before and above all other things, you’d find that deranged, not therapeutic. You would do the work to get healthy and you wouldn’t fight to maintain your self-definition as a traumatized person. You’d get healthy and then you would just be healthy.

None of this is similar to the approach common to the recent obsessive pop-psychology interest in “trauma,” the use of which has become a form of currency among impressionable people. That kind of trauma is seen as permanent and existential. Its acolytes scream angrily about the right to self-treat and self-diagnose. And many find the idea that you should ever get healthy again, that you should ever heal, to be inherently offensive. This is despite the fact that all of the research tells us that most people get over psychological traumas and often fairly quickly. And thank god! That’s exactly what we should want. The trouble is that the whole point of addressing trauma of whichever kind - to get over that which you can get over and learn to live with that which you can’t fully get over - is not conducive to what trauma is used for today. Today, people perform trauma. They perform trauma because they’re rewarded for doing so with attention and sympathy. The desire to get those things is natural; the incentive structure that produces that behavior is toxic. The social assumptions that once pushed people to valorize being healthy, which we now often dismiss as “stigma,” have no purchase in online communities like TikTok, Tumblr, or Instagram. What has great purchase is presenting a comprehensible identity to others, a vision of a self made legible by some simplistic and overarching factor.

The point of addressing trauma is to get over it. Not to derive an identity from it, not to make it a free-floating excuse for selfishness or lack of accountability, not to get social media clout for having it, not to monetize it, not to make it an all-encompassing explanatory mechanism for every element of your life. Trauma is not to be celebrated, explicitly or indirectly. Your responsibility as a traumatized person is to treat your trauma medically, for your own good and for the good of those around you. To treat trauma medically requires diagnosis by and intervention from those medically trained and certified to perform those tasks. And then, from there, your trauma can become a part of your personality, of your story, and of your self. You might use it to create great art, although probably not, as it’s talent and vision that make the mining of trauma for artistic purposes great, not the trauma itself. More prosaically, you may bring people into your confidence about your trauma, as you prefer, or you may keep it to yourself. You should always feel free to reach out to others who have suffered that way for support and advice and community, if that helps you. Trauma is a big deal and it's natural and healthy to treat it as such; there is no timetable for how quickly you have to heal, no wrong way to do it, and no shame in struggling as you do.

But any social construct that compels you to want to remain in your trauma is pathological. Resistance to healing is pathological.