According to The National Council, 70 percent of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives.
A traumatic event can include many things such as major health issue or injury, losing a loved one, getting a divorce, domestic or family violence, sexual assault, a serious car accident, etc.
Nearly six years ago, I lost my mom to a long-term illness. The impending situation along with other factors surrounding her illness and death was pretty traumatic for me as her first-born. I was definitely a “mommy’s girl” and I wasn’t ready to let her go.
Losing her was very mentally and emotionally taxing, leaving me feeling like I had nothing left to give to anyone else there for a while. I understood that it was important for me to grieve her death, but I also realized it was a process to eventually recover and move on with my life.
It was during that process I learned the blunt truth: while my trauma was a temporary reason for certain emotions and actions, it was not an excuse to stay stuck in that space forever.
Your trauma is not an excuse for Failing to take responsibility.
Even though suffering a traumatic experience may have an impact on our thinking and behavior, it is still our job to make sure these events don’t wreak havoc on our lives and relationships. This doesn’t mean we are admitting fault for what happened. It means that in spite of it, we still owe it to ourselves to take back our power over the situations and continue to lead happy and fulfilling lives.
In a 2018 video, actor and father of three Will Smith delivered a motivational pep talk about fault versus responsibility. Here were a few of his key points:
- “It’s not somebody’s fault if their father was an abusive alcoholic, but it’s for damn sure their responsibility to figure out how they are going to deal with those traumas and make a life out of it.”
- “It’s not your fault if your partner cheated and ruined your marriage, but it is for damn sure your responsibility to figure out how to take that pain and how to overcome that and build a happy life for yourself.”
- “Fault and responsibility do not go together, it sucks. When something is somebody’s fault, we want them to suffer, we want them punished, we want them to pay, we want it to be their responsibility to fix it, but that’s not how it works.”
- “Road to power is in taking responsibility. Your heart. Your life. Your happiness is your responsibility and your responsibility alone.”
Smith also mentioned that as long as we keep pointing the finger and blaming others, we become trapped into a victim mindset. When you are in a victim mindset, you are stuck in suffering. The only way to get out is to take responsibility.
Your trauma is not an excuse for Bad behavior.
Our past experiences, both good and bad, play a part in shaping our future thinking and behavior.
For those who have experienced trauma, it is common to develop issues with anger, aggression, anxiety, difficulty trusting others, poor self-esteem, irritability, etc.
For me, the first stages of grief caused me to be pretty irritable, selfish, and needy. I was trying to retreat from all the feelings of sadness and negativity.
While these are common and understandable responses, they are not a justification for poor behavior.
Your past trauma is never an excuse to act cruel, hateful, or abusive towards the people around you.
It’s better to do some authentic self-reflection than to hurt the people we love continuously. Consider seeking professional help if you think it might be necessary or beneficial for you.
The bottom line is we can’t let our past pain turn us into a monster who leaves a path of destruction behind everywhere we go.
We’re a generation so caught up in blaming and calling everyone else toxic. But the truth is that sometimes you might be the problem.
I’m glad I’ve noticed the patterns I needed to fix instead of saying, “That’s just the way I am.”
Recognizing your own toxic behavior is a part of how to continue to grow as human beings. Personal growth doesn’t stop as soon as we become adults. It’s something that never ends.
Your trauma is not an excuse for Having everyone walk on eggshells.
I could easily say, “My mom’s death was very traumatic for me so that’s why I’m always depressed, irritable, and needy,” and expect everyone around me to adjust to how I’m expressing my emotions.
The reality is that if I want healthy relationships with friends and family, I have to make an honest effort to manage my attitude and behavior.
I have been around people who have suffered trauma as well as severe anxiety, depression, among other things. I can only imagine how difficult it must be in their shoes and I feel for them. But honestly, it’s not always easy to get along with them either.
There were friends who left me with the impression that I needed to watch what I say and do around them due to their anxiety and trauma. Naturally, I wanted to be supportive and understanding, so I gave it my best shot. Watching my words and actions started with one thing, then another, and another. The next thing I know, I am completely editing myself to the point where I can’t even be my true self anymore when I’m around them. The emotional labor I was putting in to maintain relationships with these people was beginning to give me anxiety of my own.
I then realized there’s a very fine line between being supportive and being an enabler who walks on eggshells in fear of offending someone. And believe me, that’s no way to live either.
As someone who was dealing with the loss of my mom, I didn’t want to expect everyone around me to just have to forever deal with the fact that I was being moody or selfish. I didn’t want them to have to cater to my neediness for the rest of their lives. Instead, I’ve been doing the work necessary to heal while keeping her in my heart.
As uncomfortable as it is coming face to face with the things that trigger your trauma, it is not the world’s job to tiptoe around you. It is impossible for you to shelter yourself away from those triggers all the time.
No one said it would be easy to heal from past trauma, but it is extremely important to do anything you can. Also, it is perfectly okay to be patient with yourself and ask patience from others while you take your time. Your loved ones should understand that you might need some extra space for a while. The process is a long and winding road, but it is definitely worth it.