So if you’ve ever been the recipient of a can of Coke that’s just dropped on the floor and as you pull that ring-pull, the volcanic explosion of fizz just pours out all over its unsuspecting host, you will totally get this. That moment of abject horror when you realise your interview is in 10 minutes and your shirt now resembles half your can as you douse yourself with whatever comes to hand, hoping that those stains will dry off in time before your big moment. Then you will get this.
Well this is what it’s like to go through a trauma. When we go through a trauma especially one in our primary age, it’s as though we’ve been dropped on the floor. Dropped and forgotten about. We somehow muddle through, picking our self up off the floor and try to get on with life but something’s changed. Deep within our self, we aren’t the same person anymore. Outside, we are. On the outside, we look the same, talk the same and act the same. But inside, we are the same as that Coke can just before the ring pull gets pulled. We become a blazing mass of emotions that we can’t control or tame. We want the world to recognise what we have had to endure, how fragile we have become, how vulnerable and lost we may feel but we also fear judgement and so many of us hide away.
One of the easiest and best ways of dealing with trauma is to pull that ring pull. By asking direct questions such as “are you ok?” we are encouraging them to explore their feelings in an open and non-judgemental way. This is by far the best strategy when dealing with trauma. It can be messy at first. Like that Coke can splattered across its opener, when someone pulls our ring pull and we open up, it can be messy but it does clear up once we’ve acknowledged our emotions. Most people feel a sense of relief once they share their struggles and feel less isolated in that journey.
The problem for many of us, is we’re not comfortable talking about our past. Some are scared of looking sub-human or showing cracks and admitting that we’re not perfect. Some are scared of what’s inside our head and what may happen if we acknowledge it. So we hide away. We have our hands firmly clasping the lid of that can, refusing to admit to ourselves what we have been through and defying anyone to tear our hands away and allow us to be vulnerable.
If we don’t acknowledge where we’ve come from by talking it through, we store up problems for our self later in life. We all have a capacity and when that capacity is breached, that stuff will find a way of escaping whether we like it or not. In most cases those ways of escaping emotions can be more harmful to us.
There are no shortages of ways of our emotions leaking out. A number of these could include social media and gaming addictions, suicidal and self-harm behaviours, alcohol and drug addictions, sex addictions and aggressive thoughts and behaviours. But virtually every other way of dealing with trauma is laced in denial and distraction. We try to convince our self that we are too busy to deal with stuff or that someone else is more important, more deserving than us. We distract ourselves by hiding in alternate realities where we can pretend to be someone else and escape the reality that is blaringly obvious if only we would acknowledge it.
The problem with denial is that problems don’t go away just because we want them to. By hiding from the problems, we prolong the agony until one day we come face to face with the thing we’ve been running from all our lives and no energy to fight back. This is when people can become suicidal.
Most people reported a sense of increased wellbeing when they share their emotions with a friend and reduces thoughts of suicide if we no longer feel isolated. If someone around you is struggling don’t be scared to pull their ring pull and ask how they’re going. You may get a tidal wave of emotion pouring out and that’s a good thing. You may even save a life.