Saturday, December 8, 2018


Fuzzy Skinner's comment on this post has been in my thoughts since it was posted early early this morning:
"Something like the X-card has its value at a convention game; people who have been through legitimate trauma shouldn't be forced to relive that trauma at the game table, and having an "out" is absolutely fine if there ultimately won't be any long-term consequences for anything."

I want to be careful and give this all the respect that it deserves, because Fuzzy is absolutely right ... up to where the quote reads "game table."  The experience of having a trauma reintroduced into your consciousness can be as shattering as the original trauma.  I want all my readers to know, I understand that.  Hell, I've lived it.

Still, I want the reader to consider that one word that haunts the middle of Fuzzy's argument, that makes all this so damn hard to manage in a social setting: "shouldn't."  People shouldn't be forced.  That's right.  They shouldn't.  Except ... and this is something that therapy starts by teaching you the reality of that desirable little word ... people will.

People who have suffered from trauma will be forced to relive that trauma again and again ... forced by strange little signifiers no one can guess at, forced by sounds, forced by the smell of a bit of food or released gas, forced by the date or the hour, forced by an inconvenient group of coincidental triggers ... forced.  Because trauma ~ legitimate trauma, as Fuzzy describes it ~ is a sort of memory creep that lingers just below the consciousness and waits until circumstances turn.  No one suffering from trauma is safe from that.

That's what counselors teach.  They teach that what you have to stop doing, every time you're triggered, is reliving the events that created that trauma.  There are ways they help you do that; strategies they employ; patterns of counselling that are designed to resolve issues until you can manage your trauma.  It's never the same for two different people, but counselors have scripts they work from that have been devised over decades of study and exploration.  It takes time. You have to want it.  If you give of yourself and you work, you can learn to manage the trauma.  You can't make it go away; but you can stop being at it's mercy.

What counselors don't teach is that other people are responsible for making sure you're not triggered.  The way other people talk, or behave, or the references they make, is not part of the control you have, or you will ever have.  Counselors take a lot of time to drill that into your head.  Other people are absolutely innocent where it comes to causing your trauma ... and until you understand that, and embrace that, you will never be in control of what has happened to you, or what is happening.

Creating a card that enables you, the person at the mercy of your trauma, to cut into and cut off the behaviour of other people is a destructive behaviour.  Not only are you committing your self-care into the hands of other people, perpetrating again and again your victimhood by naming innocent people as your persecutors, you are moving farther away from recognizing your own need in controlling your own trauma.  What's more, you're spreading trauma to other people ~ for every time you draw them into your denial, you make them part of your trauma.  You infect them with trauma.  They walk away with experiences of guilt, pity, confusion, self-loathing at having hurt you or caused you to grow angry or despondent ... and they don't even know what happened to you.

They cannot make a meaning from what they've done ~ except to chastise themselves, and others, into withdrawing from any subject that might cause distress to anyone.  And so the trauma spreads, until we are counselling each other, without any understanding of what we're doing, having no training whatsoever in counselling, how to "protect" people from trauma.  We can't.  No one can. That is not how trauma works.

This madness has become part of our constant dialogue.  We feel so much pain for the traumatized that we are traumatized ourselves by it ... and the traumatized get nothing from our guilt.

Let's stop.  If someone at your table is triggered; help them calm down.  Help them talk about it.  Help them go home if they need it.  But let's not reframe the world to further enable their pathology.  It won't work.  There are too many variables.  Let's get the traumatized some help and let's stop victimizing ourselves for being innocent.

X-cards are a form of flight and that is natural ... but NOT healthy.


Fuzzy Skinner said...

Excellent points, all. The reason I didn't answer your comment on the earlier post is that I didn't have a good answer; nor do I have any background or knowledge of counseling, aside from the few hours that I've been through.

Thank you for posting this.

Alexis Smolensk said...

You are most welcome, Fuzzy. I found it a difficult post to write.

Ozymandias said...

This is really well done. I think you've finally convinced me of the point here: psychological trauma, as terrible as it is, is not the responsibility of others to manage. It is awful but it is the individual's burden. We may ask friends and family to support us, but anyone beyond those close, intimate circles? No. That's unreasonable.