Updated: Sep 16, 2020
The field of traumatology has roots in the greek word “trauma” which means “injury or wound”. When we hear words like “trauma”, “injury” or “wound”, we would often relate to physical trauma, injury or wound that may lead to physical scarring. As there is physical trauma that leads to physical wound and scarring, there is psychological trauma which leads to emotional wounds and scarring. Perhaps as physical wounds are obvious and visible to the eyes, physical wounds are more often acknowledged and treated better compared to the emotional ones. Research has shown how traumatic experiences during childhood or adulthood could cause emotional scarring and changes in the brain and in turn, increasing one’s vulnerability level in face of future stressors.
Trauma for that matter could alter how one’s brain stores and remembers traumatic events that could interfere with future similar experiences if not brought to awareness and processed well. The literature pertaining to emotional and relational trauma suggests that individuals’ inability to move on in life after traumatic experiences such as grief and loss could have something to do with the impact that such memories have on the brain. Individuals could be hypervigilant in face of an experience that reminds them of the incident. For people who have gone through traumatic experiences, they continue to “live out” the memories in the present instead of storing it as mere historical information or memories as most lay people do. Hence, “moving on” is more difficult, especially if we do not understand the extent of how traumatic those experiences were to that individual.
I think it is also rather common for people to brush off emotional wounds and pain as labelling those who are in emotional distress as being “weak”, “thinking too much”, “emotional” etc. While these are common ways to comfort people in distress, such ways tend to invalidate people’s feelings and tends to be counterproductive in causing more distress and harm than doing good. Everybody is situated in different social environments, have different personalities and thus, possess different levels of tenacity in face of stress. One common phrase we often hear in counselling are clients articulating “You are not me, you will never understand.” There is much truth in that phrase. What is a mere experience and memory to one could be traumatic memory for another. Therefore, we should never discount the feelings of individuals who are articulating their emotional pain. This is not to say that individuals should indulge in the victimization process and expect people to empathize all the time. Understanding the nature of emotional pain should serve the purpose of helping you and your loved ones to understand your struggles in order to help you heal, instead of indulging yourself in self-pity. If you happen to be one of those who are struggling traumatic memories, here’s a good introductory article on managing traumatic memories.
Due to negative stigma of mental health conditions, people generally are against labelling of mental health conditions. I personally find labels helpful in allowing individuals who bear those emotional wounds and symptoms, as well as their loved ones to understand the extent of their situation and struggles better, in order to seek proper help, instead of trivializing their pain. From my own professional experience, people start to heal and move on when their deepest emotional pain are being acknowledged. Emotional wounds though not visible to the naked eyes, are real experiences, just like physical wounds. If we do not relegate people who have physical wounds or physical conditions and label them as weak, why is it that people with emotional wounds or mental health condition are often relegated to being “weak” and attaching all sorts of negative connotations to their experiences and condition then? Mother Teresa once said:
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
Be it whether individuals are suffering from physical or mental conditions, they are unwell. And when people are unwell, they need tender, loving, care and not judgement.
Here’s a quote with much truth in it, it says:
“The world is as scary as I thought it was, but (Your) love makes me braver still.”
May you look forward to the day where you will no longer be living out your past traumatic memories and instead be courageously living in a healthy and blissful life in the present. May you heal, so that you can heal others.