An awesome survivor recently shared this poignant quote with me the other day and I had to pass it on.
I can only imagine how many of us suffer “secondary wounding” when we reach out for understanding and empathy for our psychiatric injuries.
In my case, people’s responses to my experience did more long term damage than the initial trauma. This secondary wounding affects me on every level from how I talk to myself, how I view my struggles and how I respond to other people’s distress to my ability to relax enough to fall asleep every night. Trauma + secondary trauma is hell. Nuff said.
The same person who shared the quote expressed sympathy for my experience and it took a few days to let it sink in. I regularly get invalidated by people ignorant to hidden disability, to experiences other than their own or they just think they know what I’ve been through so feel entitled to dish out thoughtless advice. I’ve developed a thick shell, in response– so it’s always it’s hard to hear these desperately needed words.
In a recent Peter Breggin podcast, psychologist Paula Caplan talks about veterans who were able to get over their war trauma just by being heard.
This really speaks to how we’re wired as humans to need our experiences to be seen, mirrored and empathized with by others. Being heard and understood is not a luxury–it’s hardwired into our biology.
If you’re an ally or looking for a little healing yourself, I highly recommend the book the Power of Validation.
While this book’s target is parents, its principles can apply to any relational situation from how you talk to yourself, approach your own feelings to how to understand and empathize with someone else’s experience.
If you want to understand the nuts and bolts of connection, check out A General Theory of Love.
Aside from waxing poetic about drugs and psychotherapy, it has solid info on why we love and the importance of connection. You’re not weak for needing it- you just live is a society that’s misunderstood and trivialized it.
Non-judgmental listening, validation and empathy are powerful life changing forces. The world would be a better place of more people knew how utilize them.
For those dealing with secondary trauma,
If you’re a survivor of anything, shock, psych drugs, rape, physical or emotional abuse and have been judged, criticized or gaslit by the people you reached out to for help, your pain, your experiences are real and your feelings connected to the trauma are valid.
I’m sorry for your initial trauma and even more so for your secondary injuries you got when you bravely reached out for help.
Hall, K. D., & Cook, M. H. (2012). The power of validation: Arming your child against bullying, peer pressure, addiction, self-harm & out-of-control emotions. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Huppert, A. (2010, September 14). PTSD Cautions: Secondary wounding | Examiner.com. Retrieved November 9, 2015, from http://www.examiner.com/article/ptsd-cautions-secondary-wounding
Lewis, T., Amini, F., & Lannon, R. (2001). A general theory of love. New York: Vintage Books.