On Trauma

Everyone experiences trauma. I know I’ve said this before.

Trauma, itself, almost always threatens to shatter established beliefs. (Remember, our beliefs are our ways of viewing the world and our place in it).

In The Posttraumatic Growth Workbook, Richard G. Tedeschi and Bret A. Moore explain how the disruption of trauma, while it may threaten deeply held beliefs, also provides an opportunity for psychological growth. They add, “not everyone experiences growth…Although growth is commonplace, it is not universal.”

The two doctors further explain why some people do not experience psychological growth following traumatic experience.

“In some cases, people who experience no posttraumatic growth likewise have experienced little distress following a trauma. Their system of core beliefs allows them to understand what is happening, and they do not have to reconsider what they already know. They are able to get back to their previous way of living without much difficulty. These are the most resilient people.”

Richard G. Tedeschi and Bret A. Moore

I wonder, in the case of those who’ve “experienced little distress following a trauma,” whether it isn’t so much that their core beliefs allow for an explanation of the trauma, as much as it is the strength of their psychological defenses, which allows for a cohesive understanding of trauma within their pre-established system of beliefs? After all, beliefs are inherently subjective, and rely heavily on authority structures.

I struggle with the idea that people who bounce back after a trauma are more resilient than those more emotionally affected. I would argue that the beliefs enabling the rebound are actually entrenched fundamentalist defenses.

Recall, if you will, my series on authority. Most (if not all) belief systems require dependence on an authorized figure who knows. Call it God, call it science, call it an algorithm, but this outside other is imbued with authority to regulate the interactions of their adherents. Likewise, recall that one’s rejection of authority is itself a traumatic experience.

Photo by Lujia Zhang on Unsplash

I propose that well defended individuals incur less impact from traumatic experience, not because their faith allows for an explanation of their trauma, but because they cannot bear the loss of their faith, in addition to the loss incurred by traumatic experience. The disruption induces these folks to cling more tightly to their worldview, as a child clings to a blanket when frightened in the night. In my opinion, this is no marker of resilience.

I firmly believe that posttraumatic growth occurs in some and not others–not because those unaffected have more stable faith–but because those deeply affected have an infinite capacity for love, compassion, and perception. Love, compassion, and perception cannot reconcile a rigid belief structure with traumatic disruption.

If Tedeschi and Moore are correct, and I’ve been more affected by my trauma than others because their system of beliefs allows them to comprehend the disruption of trauma (and mine did not), then I’d rather be a less resilient human. If questioning the authority that justifies abusive and/or oppressive structures makes me weak, then so be it!

I’ll add weak to the growing list of descriptors I’m currently collecting (entitled, unforgiving, bitter, hypocritical, yada yada yada–see TikTok for more on these).

While I realize I have taken a critical perspective on a small excerpt from this workbook, it was recommended to me by my therapist, and it isn’t a bad book, in total. If you are interested in buying a copy, get it from me, and a portion of the proceeds will help me spread a message of hope to the masses.

About Author

Standing ground for desire through self-study of philosophy and psychoanalysis, self-reflection, and creative sublimation through the work of literary fiction.

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