The Myth of Perpetual Trauma
Originally posted June 25th, 2012
“You really need to see a therapist” advises a perfect stranger responding to my comment on a news blog where I discuss the gross under-reporting of sex crimes and domestic violence. My remark is sociological in nature, referencing data I learned in my university education which included sociology, social psychology, and pre-counseling psychology courses. The person reading it regards my data as “angry” and “hurt” in nature and assumes that I am a survivor of some sort of domestic violence or sex crime who needs professional help.
She was correct in assessing that I survived something, but completely off-base in her assumption that surviving something automatically means that the person is so traumatized by the event(s) that she presently needs professional therapy. Knowing nothing else about me, she could not know my personal medical history, much less the details of the crimes, yet she felt it appropriate to stick her head into very private personal business. Her underlying assumption was “if victimized, then need help.”
As well-meaning as her intent was, it is faulty in its logic. Every single person and every crime is different. We each respond to the stressors in our lives differently. Sometimes a stressor like domestic violence or rape un-nerves us, undermining our capacities to live normal life. In these cases, it is probably advisable to seek professional help in getting back to a more productive mental state.
But the point of therapy is not to stay in therapy forever; the point of therapy is to get BETTER and NOT be in therapy any longer. The point of therapy is to HEAL – just as you heal from a physical wound. It is SUPPOSED to end; if no end is in sight, then the treatment isn’t working and a new therapist and/or approach is needed, just as you would do for any physical condition – like my chronic migraines where prescription drugs didn’t help, but a change to holistic therapy DID in reducing my physical pain.
Just as a stressor may unnerve us, it may equally INSPIRE us; we can and typically do respond to stress POSITIVELY. Surviving domestic violence or a sex crime often provokes us to make positive changes in our lives, allowing us to break destructive habits, increase in wisdom/insight, and grow deeper in our chosen spirituality. We learn from every experience in our lives; the most stressful events are generally the best teachers.
Despite living my life today with physical scars on my body that will never really go away from the crimes I suffered, I can honestly tell you that I would not change anything about my life, even and especially the mistakes I’ve made. I am not less of a person. I am not weak for surviving criminal behavior. All of these experiences have given me insight, forced me to grow religiously, and developed inner resources and skills I would never have been able to. Through the crimes I suffered, I came to finally overcome several bad habits I’ve had that, in hindsight, have been rather self-destructive. Under the stress of coping with these hurtful events, I have discovered that I BLOSSOMED as an individual. My insights and understanding of the world is rooted in them.
Have I ever gone to therapy? Absolutely, many times over the course of my life, and using many different approaches. But therapy did its job: to help me cope and move on.
Surviving a crime is not a life sentence, no matter how brutal, horrible, or long-lasting. We all heal and move on. Surviving is not weakness, not something to be pitied. The strongest people in the world all survived some sort of serious trauma. Remember that next time you hear someone suffered something; odds are really good they are tougher inside than you are!