Why People don’t Talk about their Trauma

There are things that nobody talks about.

There are things that are absolutely taboo.

So when you experience these things yourself, you feel isolated. Completely alone. Judged. Ostracized. Abandoned in your pain.

And that is a terrible place to be.

Here’s how you feel when this happens to you

– You feel as if you’re tarnished even though you’re innocent. You feel like you’re an outcast, that you’ve been stigmatized.

– You feel extremely vulnerable. Your world has been exposed. There’s nothing that’s a secret. You’ve lost your privacy.

– You feel that you’ve been talked about, and you’ve been judged and blamed. Some people will attack you, and call you hurtful names.   

– You feel that other people think you’re worth much less than them. You feel their eyes upon you, and their eyes are harsh and cold.

– You feel you must be silent for no-one wants to hear, and no-one wants to know about the pain you’re going through.

– You feel you can’t say anything for no-one understands. You just get trite advice (which is devoid of empathy).

– You feel you’re going crazy as your life is such a mess. You can’t process the trauma and the feelings you now have.

– You have to wear a mask, and act like everything is fine – regardless of the turmoil and the pain that’s haunting you.

– You act a part in public. You must live a double life. You feel so lost and lonely – but it’s so hard to get help.

Something to think about …

After traumatic events that threaten to rob us of our dignity and spirit, people typically don’t tell others. In fact, many trauma survivors either never speak to anyone about what happened to them or wait a very long time to do so.

The reasons for this are multi-fold and likely include shame, perceived stigma of being a “victim,” past negative disclosure experiences and fears of being blamed or told that the event was somehow their fault …

For some, talking about their trauma is an initial step toward healing. But for others, sharing an experience and then having the response be negative can harm recovery. It can shut them down and lock the psychological vault, if not for forever, then at least for a long time.” – Joan M. Cook

If this resonates with you, please believe you’re not alone. Take comfort in the fact that you are not the only one.

A few easy tips for those who want to be supportive

To be genuinely supportive when someone takes a risk and shares about a trauma, or something that’s taboo:  

– Give that person your full and undivided attention. Do not allow yourself be distracted by anything AT All.

– Pay attention to your body language. You should come across as being still, calm, focused, with an open body posture, and good steady eye contact (but don’t stare!)

–  Say very little. Your job is to listen. Not to comment. Not to give advice. Your only job is to listen to this person.

– Don’t ask extraneous questions. Don’t change the topic. Don’t offer platitudes.

– Allow for brief periods of silence. This is a heavy topic. Don’t rush the speaker. Sit with the silence.  

– Don’t talk about your, or anyone else’s, experience. The focus right now is the speaker’s experience.

– Notice and point out any strengths in the speaker. This sends the powerful message that they’re going to survive.

52 thoughts on “Why People don’t Talk about their Trauma

  1. Yes! I agree with emergingfromthedarkknight. I’ve never seen this exact advice anywhere. Please write more about this! The quote at the beginning was an “ah-ha” moment for me, and then your thoughts cemented everything together.

    I am a very genuine person–what you see is what you get–who talks through his trauma. It’s been hard (at times) when others seem uncomfortable when I talk about the lowest points of my life. I didn’t understand why. But now I’ve had a glimpse!

    Thank you again, and God Bless!

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thank you David! I found that quote really helpful too. It accurately describes what many of us experience. And that often leaves us feeling lonelier than ever!

      It’s so good to be around people who are genuine and real. Thank you for being a what-you-see-is-what-you-get-person. That is very valuable. However, I can imagine that FOR YOU it has been troubling and painful to have your openness and honesty rebuffed. It reinforces the feeling of being rejected, and feeling no-one truly cares about our most painful life experiences.

      But keep speaking up, and being transparent for you speak on behalf of so many others whose experiences resonates with yours. They will find comfort in your words.

      Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Yes! The most hurtful thing to me was the negative response after sharing my trauma with those I cared about. Especially when the person pushed aside my passion to defend the other person… I felt invisible! Through prayer and trust in God, God brought people in my life who would listen and did care. I have better relationships now, and I have better discernment in who to share with. When I share with someone who “doesn’t get it”, I don’t take it personally now, I just know the person wasn’t in a place to understand or say the right thing in response. Looking back, I know a lot of the negative responses were because the person I told was inputting their own experiences and relationship into my experience, so they couldn’t really give advice or comforting words because they weren’t in a place of wanting to truly listen or be empathetic. While painful, I now know who is a good listener and who is not.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thanks Amber. What you share here is so insightful.
      I immediately locked onto your comment which said :”The most hurtful thing to me was the negative response after sharing my trauma with those I cared about” … because these are the people we think will be there for us. These are the people we expect to be safe, understanding and responsive. And that’s what makes it so distressing.
      It’s amazing that you’ve reached the place where you don’t take “rejection” personally any more – because you can see it for what it is: a reflection of where others are at in life.
      Not everyone is a good listener … but with discernment (thankfully) we can find people who fit into that category.
      Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for reblogging this. I hope it helps your readers.
      I’m really sorry you were ostracized by your family. It takes courage to share our traumas with others … and your family should have been a safe place for you. This must have been a very painful experience for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “sharing an experience and then having the response be negative can harm recovery.” I was getting better then deeply wounded by someone I trusted enough to share with… That was the beginning of a downward spiral – I could never have anticipated the damages that would happen to me. I didn’t understand what was happening then, hindsight is 20/20

    Reality is I struggled with a mixture of emotions when the betrayal happened – I felt abandoned, alone hurt and a little angry – but at the same time I loved this person and valued him and his presence in my life greatly. I was all over the place

    We never talked about it again. Hopefully one day we can. Until then I’m taking life slow for the first time in a long time and taking care of me

    Liked by 4 people

    • I really feel for you, Love. You are taking a great risk when you share something deeply personal with another … and where you choose to make yourself vulnerable to them. To then feel that part of you was powerfully rejected – and to feel it put a wedge between you and that person – is so painful and deeply distressing. I’m really sorry, Love.
      I’m glad you are taking care of yourself. That is absolutely crucial!!! Have a great weekend.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Others will never understand childhood abuse, complex PTSD

    It happened before our brain has formed, some call it Developmental Ptsd

    Three brain organs are damaged
    Amygdala is larger
    Hippocampus smaller and
    The left prefrontal cortex is compromised

    It is all irrational and PTSD has the switch to fire our fight or flight mechanism

    Anytime I share my trauma it turns out bad

    No way can a normal, person imagine what a nervous system feels like that is turned upside down.

    We isolate and avoid triggers at all costs.

    Friends think we are weak, ask why can’t you just let it go

    I have been told more than once his a friend would handle my childhood PTSD

    They have an easy solution to a very complex mental disorder

    It is a minefield

    Liked by 6 people

  5. “double life” … Most times now I choose to look towards the light, the beauty and positives in life. My background allows me to appreciate beauty 💖

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you very much for the great tips to be someone’s strength in the truest sense.Most people are lacking the sensibility to make sense when some dear ones consider life to be nothing but nonsense.Understanding the gravity of the situation is of utmost need to sympathize a person who has been ostracized for no fault of his/her own and your post has brought it out perfectly.I am also re blogging it so that others can find the support they are looking for.Take care🙏😊🌹

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Insightful. “You feel you must be silent for no-one wants to hear…” This, in particular, has broad application. Holocaust survivors often did not speak of the suffering they endured, assuming the public was uninterested and could not comprehend it. Those dealing w/ mental illness (whether on their own part or the part of a loved one) often feel the same way. Sharing such knowledge is, however, a privilege.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes. It IS a privilege. It is costly to make ourselves so vulnerable by sharing something deeply personal and deeply traumatic. Great to hear from you, Anna. Thanks for sharing these thoughts and reflections.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s true – and a very good point. If we are more introverted by nature, and we instinctively tend to hold back, then we may find we over-isolate … which isn’t helpful. Thanks for raising that, bigskybuckeye!

      Liked by 2 people

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