Wednesday, 25 January 2023

The dilution of trauma

This Critic piece by Samuel Mace is worth reading.

The dilution of trauma

Exaggerating emotional struggles weakens our resilience

Trauma is an emotional response to an event worse than merely upsetting. In previous times, the word “traumatic” would have been applied to a variety of events so devastating they follow us not just after the event but throughout our lives. Layered on top of the event itself is the concept of being “traumatised”. When we are traumatised, such events affect us deeply enough that we struggle to “move on” from said events to a process of healing.

Today, though, trauma is increasingly being used to describe things that are merely upsetting. As Jonathan Haidt has argued, the word “trauma” is being applied to areas where it was never meant to apply. Diluting this powerful word is dangerous.

Yes it is dangerous to dilute powerful words. How do we talk ourselves out of corrupted language when all we have is more corrupted language? 

By reducing trauma to an everyday occurrence, we leave people unable to express their emotions in a normal way. The result is a deformed society where trauma is all around and unavoidable events are presented as damaging. It is how teachers get fired, authors’ names get erased, and being bad at a class is categorised as a tragedy that will stalk you for life. It may be seen as a kind, empathetic thing to not diminish someone’s feelings, but we are harming people more than we are helping them. Trauma is a complicated, horrible and necessary part of existence. It is its rarity that provides its power, and that cannot be reduced to mere frustration, sadness and discomfort. That would do the suffering a disservice.


dearieme said...

I am browned off, You are miffed, She is traumatised.

Doonhamer said...

The word "trauma" has been debased.
Nobody has a cut finger. It is a trauma.
Our English language is sliding into trite.
Rhymes with shite.

A K Haart said...

dearieme - "miffed" could be useful for introducing a sense of reality, although some would no doubt claim to be traumatised by it.

Doonhamer - it rhymes with blight too, so we have a shite blight. If we emigrate to get away from it all, it's a shite blight flight.