Saturday, November 20, 2021

What Is Trauma Dumping?

Now, thanks to an Oxford associate fellow we have a brand new and slightly inelegant concept-- “trauma dumping.’ We agree entirely with the basis for the concept, though we would have preferred a different terms. That's because we are chronically malcontented.

In the end, we will say that it's about the dangers of oversharing. All things considered we cannot have too many calls to stop this practice. It is not a good thing to complain to friends and family all the time. Worse yet, we should not be airing our grievances on social media.

To forestall misunderstanding, researcher Nelisha Wickremasinghe makes clear that it is good to process trauma by discussing the issue with a professional or a confidant. What she calls trauma dumping involves sharing too much information with too many people with whom one does not have a relationship of trust. How many of us make a habit of doing just that?

In principle, people share trauma with a confessor or a therapist or an intimate because those people are sworn to silence about the information imparted. When the information becomes circulated in public, it does not, according to Wickremasinghe, become processed, but becomes a burden to the listener. 

Worse yet, I would add, when you expose your traumas to the world entire, other people are likely to look at you with pity. They might not say anything, but their looks will reveal their empathy for your sad state. At that point, trauma will be defining you. If only one or two of your intimates knows, the chances are that they will see the best in you-- as Aristotle recommended-- and therefore will help you to process the trauma. By processing the trauma the researcher seems to mean disposing of it as an event that does not define your character.

Those who recommend trauma dumping are following good therapy culture principles. And that is the problem. The process is anything but therapeutic:

The Daily Mail has the story:

A problem shared is a problem halved. But share too many problems and you could be at risk of 'trauma dumping', an expert has warned.  

The phrase applies to people who feel the need to offload even their smallest problems and frustrations onto others, rather than those who need to talk through genuine hardship.  

Psychologist and Oxford University associate fellow Nelisha Wickremasinghe, author of Being with Others: Curses, spells and scintillation, explained people guilty of 'dumping' rely on friends so heavily because they have no other way of processing their emotions. 

Do not overshare. Spare your friends your traumas. But, do discuss them with a professional who is sworn to secrecy and whose opinion of you will not be influenced by the information.

The problem is loss of boundaries between those with whom we are on intimate terms and those who are casual acquaintances:

However, in day-to-day life, the expert said the lines are becoming blurred between what to share with a friend, and what should be kept to themselves or discussed with a professional. 

'People are increasingly confused by culturally mixed messages regarding what and when it is OK to share,' she said. 

'The use of the word 'trauma' has also become more 'elastic' meaning that some people experience and describe relatively minor life challenges as 'traumatic'.'

Note the last paragraph. Nowadays, the concept of trauma has become ubiquitous-- almost as ubiquitous as pornography. People are being encouraged to define themselves by their traumas, which means, by their being members in a victim class. Obviously, this self-identification and self-advertisement is required of those who wish to live out an oppression narrative from the side of the oppressed.

She went on to say people should recognise an inconvenience such as queuing for petrol or missing out on a promotion is not the same as surviving rape, witnessing a murder, involvement in a fatal accident or prematurely losing a loved one.

The things people who trauma dump are likely to complain about are more in the lines of Feeling abused by a demanding boss, partner, or friend, being single, the fear of getting Covid, being unattractive, outrage when one is overlooked or not noticed, paranoid feelings that others are talking about or plotting against me, and a general attitude that the world is against me. 

The author said there is such a thing as oversharing, and it has become the norm.  

Worse yet, in our therapy addled age, people are being encouraged to emote all the time, to wear their hearts on their sleeves, to feel their feelings-- see yesterday’s post-- and to live for the histrionics.

'Over emoting is encouraged and has become the norm on social media and in talk and reality shows. What's more, there's now a mountain of self-help manuals and messages instructing us to get in touch with our feelings and tell each other about them,' she said. 

People turn to trauma dumping because they are told that sharing how they feel is a good thing, but not told how to process their emotions.  

When it comes to trauma, the less said the better. There, that’s a novel concept. It’s burden for the one who is making a public display of emotion and for the one who is being burdened with the knowledge:

Nelisha also said it takes time to recover from discussing someone's trauma.  

''Detoxing' from this can take some time because of the feelings that arise after the 'trauma binge'. 

'For example, people often feel guilty and ashamed because they sense they have shared too much and/or embellished and exaggerated the details of their problem. 

'They can also feel increased anxiety because the dumping 'solution' hasn't taken away the pain, instead, it has supplied it with problem focused energy that keeps it 'memory active'. Trauma dumping is like binge drinking, it might feel good in the moment but the aftereffects are lasting and painful.'

She makes an interesting point. Trauma dumping becomes addictive. It provides a momentary high but, in retrospect, it produces misery. Emotional discharge, as I have often suggested, does not solve problems. It makes them feel insoluble.

'They want to help but can't because the purpose of trauma dumping is to discharge emotions and not to work through issues. Or they feel resentful and drained by the emotional 'bombing' and their inability to escape it,' Nelisha said. 

'Friendships and partnerships thrive on reciprocity – which is mutual sharing, giving and taking. Trauma dumping on the other hand is one sided and people are used as objects upon which to project pain. 

'When this happens the receiver can experience 'secondary trauma' which is a kind of emotional contagion where negative feelings become infectious.'

While I am not overly thrilled with the concept of “trauma dumping” I am happy to second her conclusions. She is right to expose the fault lines in therapy culture, especially its propensity to offer advice that is therapeutic.


Anonymous said...

Trauma dumping sounds a lot like when people write tell all books.

Stuart Schneiderman said...


Sam L. said...

Personally, I prefer to put my thumb on my nose, raise up my fingers, and stick out my tongue and go Tbtbtbttbtbbttbbtbtbtbtbtbttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt! Your mileage may differ, but I feel sooooooo much better.

Sam L. said...

I suppose I could complain, but "nobody cares", and that includes me. Have I mentioned that I am sooooooooooo NOT BUMMED.

IamDevo said...

Personally I prefer exhibiting a stiff upper lip, as the Brits used to say. It served the Empire rather well for about three centuries, even though it seems to have fallen out of favor. Pity, that.

Stuart Schneiderman said...


markedup2 said...

There is already a word (ok, two) for these people: Drama Queens. But I do like having a verb, too.

Some people just can't seem to help themselves. Everything's a crisis or a trauma; if there isn't a real one, they'll make one up. I recommend cutting them out of your life as quickly as possible. Perhaps recommend an emotional support animal; I hear peacocks are all the rage.