There’s lots of talk about trauma these days, which is a good thing, in my opinion.
For centuries, we have been passing trauma down from one generation to the next, with absolutely no awareness that this was happening, and the current state of our world is the result. We all need to understand how trauma affects us because it’s affecting us all.
Being trauma-informed means understanding that people are behaving the way they are because of what happened to them, not because they’re bad, weak or stupid. It means asking, “What happened to you?” instead of “What’s wrong with you?” It means understanding the importance of being able to tell your story and feel heard, not judged or shamed.
When you are trauma-informed, you don’t look at someone who has done something violent and call them a monster. You understand that they are acting out their inner pain. That doesn’t make it okay, but it completely changes the way you deal with that person.
Our current system often re-traumatizes these already-hurting people, which would only lead to more pain and violence. If we have any hope for healing, we need to rethink the idea of punishment.
Maybe conversations around some of the atrocities committed would be easier to have if there was an understanding that those committing them must have been traumatized themselves?
I don’t believe that humans could cause such deep pain to others if they were not in deep pain themselves. Again, this is not excusing anything that happened, but if you’re not feeling blamed or shamed for it, don’t you think you might be more open to listening to someone’s story?
It works on every level. If children are acting out, it’s better to find out what’s upsetting them than to just scold or punish them. If your partner is being grumpy, maybe he needs to talk or just needs some space. If you know someone struggling with an addiction (and you do), judging or shaming them for trying to numb their pain is only going to make it worse.
We have been getting this wrong for far too long and the time has come for us to wake up and see the person behind the behavior, and this includes ourselves. If you can look at yourself from a trauma-informed perspective, you will be able to bring compassion where shame once lived. As you learn how much better that feels, it will make you want to do the same for others.