You Don’t ‘Have Trauma’

What a great topic to discuss; trauma. So many professionals help clients that have experienced some type of trauma over the course of their lifespan, but do the people that are being helped know what trauma means?

I ask this question because I wonder how many people know they have experienced trauma? How many people have been told they ‘have trauma’ but have no clue what ‘trauma’ means or how to identify with it? How many people know that perhaps what they’ve experienced in their early childhood or when they were pregnant and beaten, or when they were in a horrible car accident – I wonder if they know those experiences are considered traumatic?

“Of course they do!”, one might say.

“What are you talking about?”, one might ask.

I’m thinking about the topic of ‘trauma’ tonight and am excited to hear tomorrow whether or not I have been awarded a scholarship to attend a trauma conference online in a few weeks. The conference has never been provided online and otherwise has always been located in a large city somewhere far away from me. This is a great opportunity to hear from some of the best in the field on the topic of trauma – and I hope I get the scholarship!

As I read more tonight out of passion to learn more about trauma (in preparation for the conference – just sending myself and the universe some healthy, positive manifesting energy), I have come to wonder about the type of language we use with clients when discussing trauma and lifespan experiences.

For example, I’ve heard many professionals use language such as “well, you’ve got a lot of trauma and….” – And what? When we say this, that ‘you have a lot of trauma’, it sounds like we are saying the client has a lot of dandruff! I’m starting to wonder if the client thought they had something like acne!? If you do this, then the acne will go away but it may be something that you have to deal with the rest of your life. Are we talking to clients like they have dandruff or acne and here is something they can do about it? Oh my.

What I’ve never heard is a client talk about their life experiences using the word ‘trauma’. When I’ve been working with clients, the type of language used sounds more like: “my screwed up childhood”; “when I got the shit beat out of me”; “well my life wasn’t ponies and rainbows” and so on. I think many clients characterize the experiences in their life by using words and phrases that minimize the visual effects of the actual experience. For example, instead of saying ‘I was beaten daily and kicked and shoved in a closet at night’ one could lessen the blow of the visual experience by saying ‘my screwed up childhood‘.

My point? No, I didn’t go down a rabbit hole – this is very important. My point?

Let’s make sure that if we are wanting to help others or help ourselves that we must know what ‘trauma’ means, how trauma surfaces in our lives, the different types of traumatic experiences, and so on. Let’s teach WHAT trauma is as opposed to telling people they have trauma. Perhaps something such as:

Now that you know WHAT trauma is, are there areas in your life that you can identify trauma with?


Now that you know WHAT trauma is and the potential impacts of HOW trauma can impact you and your life, are you open to developing a plan and learning new tools to manage the impacts?

Let’s be compassionate – people don’t ‘have trauma’ – they ‘experience traumatic events and situations’.

I might sound silly after I take a much deeper dive into trauma studies. I am really fascinated with the topic and welcome comments. Being trauma-informed is one thing, but is there a general consensus on poor language used to discuss trauma, in general? Thoughts?



Rating: 5 out of 5.
Check this book out if you’re interested in a great read on the topic of trauma by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolt

One thought on “You Don’t ‘Have Trauma’

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