I’ve spent the last few months exploring and studying Complex PTSD and Polyvictimization. This came about for a few reasons, namely, I knew little about the diagnosis and I was seeing a significant increase in clients presenting with these issues.
Complex PTSD and Polyvictimization are when a person has experienced multiple traumas over a period of time. This can be related to combat situations, law enforcement, child abuse, domestic violence, living with crime, bullying in schools, and the list goes on. Some researchers describe it as a feeling of being trapped in a traumatic situation with no hope of it ever ending (because it doesn’t end). These people may have a more challenging time recovering given the impact trauma has on our physiological and emotional health. It is hard to heal when you are exposed to trauma again and again.
What I found most interesting in my reading so far, is the idea of the Wounding Healer. A number of years ago, I expressed some concern over comments made by a coworker in a meeting. The comments were graphic and detailed her own history of trauma. When I shared my feelings with a close friend he said, “She did not ask permission to share that” I loved that. We need to be more cognizant about how sharing our experiences influence those around us.
The wounding healer doesn’t know that they are wounding the people around them. Often, we share stories about our lives with little knowledge about what another person may have experienced. I think we must always be mindful in our interactions as not to cause distress to those around us. A lot of people have experienced trauma and are extremely sensitive to the experiences of others. Or, for the people that have not experienced trauma, hearing about a traumatic event can be extremely distressing.
I know we can’t “trigger warning” all of our conversations but we should try to consider the content of our conversations. For many of my clients, they are often exposed to conversations that trigger them or cause them further distress. When this happens they again feel trapped because they don’t want to shame the person for sharing vulnerable parts of themselves. This is particularly damaging if the wounding healer is a healthcare provider. As mental health professionals, we must be very careful about using our own stories of healing to heal others. Each story of recovery is unique.
If you feel the need to share about your history, maybe ask permission first. Or, it might be time to see a professional that is prepared and equipped to handle what you need to work out. After all, sharing trauma is something that needs to be handled delicately and with compassion.
“Unfortunately, not all wounded healers are aware of their own issues, and certainly not all healers are healed. Some become wounding healers, who are not fully aware of their own injuries or haven’t worked on them sufficiently and therefore too easily project their issues and unconscious needs onto others. These people can be quite dangerous to someone as vulnerable as a trauma victim, whose trust in others may have been betrayed in all sorts of ways. What makes matters worse is that wounding healers generally don’t recognize their weaknesses. They believe that they have healed and don’t realize when they are using their clients to continue their own work by proxy.” -Jasmin Lee Cori