Trauma and the public mind

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Johnny Dangerous
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Trauma and the public mind

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Thu May 16, 2019 7:32 pm

I've been thinking about this more and more since moving into a job where I directly deal with other people's mental states, lately I wonder: What is it in our (roughly, first world Westerners, usually middle class or better - that's the predominant culture, like it or not) culture that makes people so currently obsessed with their "traumas"?

I have noticed in the past 20 years or so that a great many people (young people especially) have this notion that trauma fundamentally breaks a human being, some people go around with their diagnoses or past experiences, and use them as a reason that they cannot possibly do this or that thing, a reason they cannot attempt to live out their own values or do things that they would otherwise do.

I recently had another professional chastise me for saying the words "I've been shot at" out loud on the grounds that it might "re-traumatize" someone. I firstly found this amazing because it apparently did not occur to her that I myself might be sharing something difficult to share, and that I myself might have some "trauma" from it that she was failing to acknowledge, and secondly, the idea that me simply saying these words would be enough to truly trigger someone's PTSD seemed questionable. Thirdly, I was -sharing- an experience precisely because sharing it was appropriate.

I'll admit I don't know all that much about PTSD clinically, but I seem to be seeing a really disturbing trend in how people view trauma - even some professionals. Rather than simply part of the baggage of being human, it's apparently a thing that irrevocably wrecks someone so badly that they can't hear the words "I've been shot at".

Meanwhile, occasionally I'll talk to or work with someone from another culture who has seen bonafide, real trauma that puts something like mine to shame, and they seem to be dealing with it much better. Many even seem to have a kind of peace with it. I compare them to the people who seem pre occupied with their trauma, and the difference is night and day.

What is it about the current cultural moment that makes this idea so front and center? The most obvious manifestation I can think is online (dumb things are always exacerbated online), with things like excessive and inappropriate Content Warnings and Trigger Warnings.

I don't want this to be a "I hate SJW's" thing, It's a deeper question, so please don't take the conversation there, if that's your inclination.
There's no hoarding what has vanished,
No piling up for the future;
Those who have been born are standing
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Motova
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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by Motova » Thu May 16, 2019 8:08 pm

Johnny you are too alpha male obviously. :rolling:

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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Thu May 16, 2019 10:25 pm

Motova wrote:
Thu May 16, 2019 8:08 pm
Johnny you are too alpha male obviously. :rolling:
I'm pretty damn touchy-feely actually. I work as a counselor, talk openly about my own emotions etc. That's why i'm kind of amazed by some of this behavior.
There's no hoarding what has vanished,
No piling up for the future;
Those who have been born are standing
Like a seed upon a needle.

-Guhatthaka-suttaniddeso

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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by Yavana » Thu May 16, 2019 10:39 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Thu May 16, 2019 7:32 pm
I recently had another professional chastise me for saying the words "I've been shot at" out loud on the grounds that it might "re-traumatize" someone.
Motova wrote:
Thu May 16, 2019 8:08 pm
Johnny you are too alpha male obviously. :rolling:
(Please read with playful irony, as intended.)


Image

Some of us just have too much maitri to be a hater, and are too equanimous to sweat it. The struggle is staying humble.

:thumbsup:

(Yes, I've been shot at ... )

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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by Wayfarer » Fri May 17, 2019 12:11 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:What is it about the current cultural moment that makes this idea so front and center?
Isn't an inevitable consequence of secular philosophy? I mean - there's no greater context or background rationale for anything that happens. We exclusively identify with 'who we are', with our sense of ourselves - and then when that self is damaged or threatened, it hints at the abyss, the fact that this precious self is so intrinsically fragile and transient.

I don't know if you know David Loy, and his notion of 'lack and transcendence', but there's an essay of his (which I'm sure we've discussed previously) Terror in the God-Shaped Hole. It's about the psychology of the 9/11 attacks, so it's very heavy going. But the passage on around p 189 under the heading 'The Spirituality of Secularity' is what's important. It's how secularism as a philosophy pretends not to be a philosophy but 'reality as it is' - when in fact it's a construction - precisely in the sense meant by the Buddhist 'vikalpa' and 'vijnana'. It's what 'everyone takes for granted' or 'the way things are' - but it's a consensus reality, it's a construction (vikalpa).
David Loy wrote:The basic problem with the sacred/secular bifurcation [that happened as a consequence of the Reformation] has become more evident as [the sense of] the sacred has evaporated. The sacred provided not only ritual and morality but a grounding identity that explained the meaning of our life-in-the-world. Whether or not we now believe this meaning to be fictitious makes no difference to the metaphysical security and ultimate foundation that it was felt to provide. A solution was provided for death and our God-shaped sense of lack, which located them within a larger spiritual context and therefore made it possible to endure them. Human striving and suffering gained meaning; they were not accidental or irrelevant, but served a vital role within the grand structure of things.
Also have a look at another essay that was linked here a couple of years back, The Strange Persistence of Guilt. I'm sure you'll see the resonances. (It's a long read, but has an embedded audio reading which is great quality.)
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Fri May 17, 2019 12:51 am

No, I don't think it's a result of secularism at all. There are whole schools of psychology that are entirely secular that oppose the notion that a person is so utterly disabled by their trauma. So I think it is something else, but am not sure what.

I do think that people who have some felt sense or connection to "the sacred" tend to be much more resilient, but I know plenty of people who do not who still don't believe they must walk on eggshells and feel debilitated due to trauma in their past.
There's no hoarding what has vanished,
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Those who have been born are standing
Like a seed upon a needle.

-Guhatthaka-suttaniddeso

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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by Dechen Norbu » Fri May 17, 2019 1:07 am

Victimization and micro aggressions culture, Johnny. Very tipical of the "ME generation". Almost expected as a consequence of the (baseless) self esteem movement.
It's a 1st world fad. It will pass in one or two decades by itself.

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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by Wayfarer » Fri May 17, 2019 1:10 am

Perplexed by your response. I read your OP again. You're asking 'what is it about current culture in particular?' and then note that those from other cultures have seen a lot worse and seem to be able to recover. So, I'm wondering it it is due to a shortcoming or lack in current culture, which I would identify as the lack of a larger context in which to interpret, and so to accommodate, suffering. Doesn't that make at least some kind of sense in relation to what you're seeing?
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by justsit » Fri May 17, 2019 1:30 am

My impression is that it began in the public school system, maybe around the time when mainstreaming began. Children with widely varying abilities of all kinds started sharing classrooms; it became necessary to teach children that children who are otherly-abled, for lack of a better term, are still to be accepted and treated with respect. Later, every child became "special," no child left behind; then the "speshul snowflakes" appeared with the advent of helicopter parents who are too busy to actually parent but want their child treated like something utterly fragile. Everything became trauma. The kids learn from the parents.
Last edited by justsit on Fri May 17, 2019 1:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by Dechen Norbu » Fri May 17, 2019 1:31 am

I think Johnny may be overestimating the influence of psychology on society, but he has a point.
Secularism didn't produce this kind of phenomena on Communist countries, but their social context was very different. However it still plays a role in western civilization exactly in the way you put it, I believe.

If this kind of phenomena was expected for the young, why older people also act these way? They weren't that much influenced by the crappy movements that messed young people's heads. I think the answer lies in the shift to a more and more adolescentric society. This is business driven (adolescents are very easy prey). Though they are broke, how come such big amount of commercials are targeted at them (and encourage adults to become like them)?
This is complex and multifactorial, but not hard to understand. Just extensive if we start connecting all the dots.
But in a nutshell it is born with the self esteem movement, mainly affects people born after the 60's and spread to older people because our society has fallen into adolescentrism. Can't you see how adolescents react? Every little problem they have becomes disproportionate and, in their minds, relates to everyone else. In adolescents this is normal behavior. In adults, it's not, or it used not to be.
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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by Dechen Norbu » Fri May 17, 2019 1:32 am

justsit wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 1:30 am
My impression is that it began in the public school system, maybe around the time when mainstreaming began. Children with widely varying abilities of all kinds started sharing classrooms; it became necessary to teach children that children who are otherly-abled, for lack of a better term, are still to be accepted and treated with respect. Later, every child became "special," no child left behind; then the "speshul snowflakes" appeared with the advent of helicopter parents who are too busy to actually parent but want their child treated like something utterly fragile. Everything became trauma. The kids learn from the parents.
Yes, that's exactly how it started and is being perpetuated.

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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by tkp67 » Fri May 17, 2019 1:52 am

This generation is born into a self orientated culture and an attachment to trauma is an attachment to self and I can say this as someone who has been diagnosed and treated for a trauma disorder. in my case Buddhism was still required to fulfill me and regardless of the validity of trauma it was still I who needed to take ownership of how it would effect me for the rest of my life.

However identifying as a product of trauma never seemed that attractive in my eyes either way and some people will even treat you differently based on such testimony so I don't get the trend in social phenomenon personally.

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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Fri May 17, 2019 2:02 am

Wayfarer wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 1:10 am
Perplexed by your response. I read your OP again. You're asking 'what is it about current culture in particular?' and then note that those from other cultures have seen a lot worse and seem to be able to recover. So, I'm wondering it it is due to a shortcoming or lack in current culture, which I would identify as the lack of a larger context in which to interpret, and so to accommodate, suffering. Doesn't that make at least some kind of sense in relation to what you're seeing?
It just seems more recent and specific than something as general as "secularism".

As to psychology, the deeper I've gotten into study of that subject, the more it seems like the "pop psychology" that becomes part of the public lexicon is really distorted.
There's no hoarding what has vanished,
No piling up for the future;
Those who have been born are standing
Like a seed upon a needle.

-Guhatthaka-suttaniddeso

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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by well wisher » Fri May 17, 2019 2:24 am

I think all the above posts raises very good and valid points.
I wonder if its has over exposure of information in our internet age:
The monkey minds loves to compare with each other too much,
then with the cascading effect, you will have mass-victimization as a crowd movement effect,
especially in social media frenzies, #meToo ..etc..

Also I wonder if diet and chemical pollution might play a factor on affecting the mind negatively:
like too much synthetic sugar or chemical addictive in our modern food,
to make it more addictive all in the name of profits and the almighty dollar $$.

As for my own personal anecdote about mental illness:
In my teen year, I remember it was related to my parents fights and divorce, plus my own grandma passed away, plus my own nasal problem (guessing maybe too much rice/carbs) and my own obsession with cleanliness led me to refusal of food intake,
thus I was diagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Looking back, maybe I was just too much of a wimp haha.
But do not worry, I am long since recovered then, and now I eat ate least one meal per day ! 3 on average now. ;)

Anyways I think we need to some baseline as some general guide:
we need to define exactly what level and types of "trauma" deserve actual psychiatric help.
Maybe there could to be more public education effort for self-help to resolve the simpler cases,
and only those with more severe persistent symptoms should seek out more professional help.

Here's to hoping all mental patients make a speedy recovery soon - to a more healthier lifestyle!

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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by Nemo » Fri May 17, 2019 2:27 pm

I wonder if it may be caused by a lack of exposure to real suffering. As a vet we don't understand this at all. It's like all the resiliency has been sucked out of them. Did they expect to get through life without suffering and obstacles?

Resiliency was a life skill we were taught in the army. After things get intense self care is needed to heal. I think talking about stuff and being a victim meant well, but it undercut people's character. Telling everyone about your suffering and making a badge out if it is not feeling the pain and healing. Resiliency means taking personal responsibility for your suffering as a tool to feel agency in your life. Victimhood is about having bad things happen to you out of your control. Attitude is very important. Guilt is a big player in PTSD. It's hard to navigate and the psych profession doesn't really seem to have a good handle on it. At least based on the way they try to drug the crap out of my friends.

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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by tkp67 » Fri May 17, 2019 4:10 pm

Personally I think the term PTSD is overused and miss understood. To understand the real depth of PTSD I think the example of shell shocked troops from wwI who had neurological reactions to intense bombings true PTSD cases. I don't know if guilt is the catalyst to their reaction. My PTSD was so bad that as a child I slept under beds and in closets out of fear, I never felt guilty for being abused at that age but the reaction was already manifest.
'
I do think that there is a genetic underpinning that determines if a person will react to traumatic stress in such a way that it can cause a physiological reaction. My basic understanding is that it comes down to physical fitness of the mind which has complexities such as chemical interactions and different neurological structure. So basically not everyone is effected in the same way but we do all experience trauma and could claim to have been victimized by it.

For me, this sensitivity to my environment coupled with traumatic abuse acted as a catalyst to question the workings of my own mind and while it has been deeply challenging it has also made it almost a caricature of the human condition. This, for me has made understanding some of the very difficult allegories contained in these teachings because I have experienced life in ways that many are "seemingly" accessible.

I say seemingly because I don't want to pretend that suffering and the desire to escape it is its own bias or that my view is more than personally relevant and sensible.

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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by Nemo » Fri May 17, 2019 4:30 pm

PTSD is an incredibly broad term that likely encompasses many different conditions. Lets say trauma that isn't healing normally. We don't need to use the most extreme cases. Everyone has been broken up after a bad love affair. Most people heal efficiently from such trauma and some never do. Physical injury is also a useful metaphor sometimes. A bad knee may be genetic, trauma induced, simply worn out from overuse or a combination of all 3. The question is what to do about it.

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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by Queequeg » Fri May 17, 2019 4:49 pm

I don't know if this is too cynical, but perhaps its a case of mental health professionals looking for clients to work with? To work with a client, it helps to have a diagnosis and plan of treatment. A lot of people being told what's wrong with them, and how to deal with it... those people start talking and next thing you know, everyone thinks they have it and now its a phenomena. I'm sure Oprah had a hand in it, too.

I'm reminded of some story about a group of girls all coming down with the same psychosomatic illness.

Used to be we hid our pain. Or it was a badge of honor to endure.

We've been told for a generation its bad to keep things bottled up.

Now its a pity party where everyone shows their scrapes and gets a sympathetic ear.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by joy&peace » Fri May 17, 2019 4:59 pm

Not long ago a teenager in Maylaysia jumped to her death after an Instagram poll voted more that she should do so, when she asked, 'Should I live or die.'

So, no, we are not too coddly, Q. We are not suffering from too much empathy. Especially online.
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Re: Trauma and the public mind

Post by Queequeg » Fri May 17, 2019 5:02 pm

joy&peace wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 4:59 pm
Not long ago a teenager in Maylaysia jumped to her death after an Instagram poll voted more that she should do so, when she asked, 'Should I live or die.'

So, no, we are not too coddly, Q. We are not suffering from too much empathy. Especially online.
That is a different issue than the one raised by JD in the OP.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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