Understanding Trauma

My Trauma Isn’t Your Trauma

In discussing trauma and how it impacts people, one thing I’ve seen overlooked repeatedly is the fact that not everyone is traumatized by the same things. I’ve actually been told my traumatic experiences weren’t traumatic because “that wouldn’t have traumatized me, so it isn’t a traumatic thing.”

That’s not how that works. That’s not how any of it works.

There are a lot of variables behind how an experience effects someone and whether those effects develop into the collection of physiological, mental, emotional, and energetic changes that comprise trauma. Some variables are still being learned; others are more obvious, such as someone’s physical and mental health at the time of the experience, whether they have support in coping with the experience, and their age at the time. More abstract things like personality and self-esteem play a role as well.

Because no two people are the same, no two people will be affected in the same way by an experience. One person’s severe trauma might be someone else’s minor annoyance. One person may have flashbacks and be triggered for the rest of their life, while another might forget about the experience and have no lasting impact.

The thing is, my experiences are my experiences. The way I’m affected by them is the way I’m affected by them. My being traumatized by certain experiences is no less valid than someone else not being traumatized by similar experiences, though in some cases I have wondered whether the person telling me they wouldn’t be traumatized by something actually wouldn’t be, or whether they’re speaking from a place of not having had a similar experience so they’re guessing what their reaction would be.

If someone labels their experience as traumatic, it isn’t up to anyone else to tell them they’re wrong. There is no right or wrong. Trauma is a very individual thing, and no one has the right to invalidate anyone else’s experiences or their perception of those experiences.