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Doctor Gayle's Corner

Effects/Triggers and Unrealistic Expectations of Someone Suffering Emotional/Psychological Trauma –

Have you ever noticed while in conversation with someone, either one-on-one or in a group setting, how the conversation can abruptly change? One minute you can be laughing and talking and the very next you notice the person’s countenance changes, even to the point of what appears to be a “dark cloud” seemingly taking over. Now you’re wondering exactly what did you say or what did someone else say. You find yourself rapidly trying to pull up that last spoken sentence; or at what point did you notice the change. If you’re very observant and/or discerning, you can almost pinpoint it to the very last word that was spoken. Instantly you recognize, noticing the darkening of the person’s face or demeanor, you or someone else in the group have hit a trigger. The person’s attention is no longer tuned into the conversation – something just happened.

For the non-observant participant, they just continue on with the conversation because they don’t have a clue that “something just happened.” However, the observant participant who is caring enough to investigate what just happened will attempt to isolate that person from the group for further inquiry. This is one of the ways of observing triggers in a person’s behavior. Or for the person who has undergone a traumatic experience, they may be observant enough of their own behavior to notice the change. They may instantly find that they have become anxious, saddened, even depressed, experiencing an unrecognized heaviness in their spirit, or an emotion they simply cannot put their finger on.

We oftentimes have unrealistic expectations of people who have experienced various types of trauma. In other words, we want them to “snap out” of their behavior – we have a “you need to get it together” expectation and when we don’t see an instant change, or after a certain amount of time has passed and we don’t see change, we often become impatient, frustrated, and many times just want to walk away, leaving that person to fend for themselves. In previous years there have been so many times that I’ve expected people to exhibit a certain type of behavior, even after finding out many of their traumatic experiences. However, after listening to so many stories of personal traumatic situations, I’ve learned, not how to lower my expectations and hope for that person, but to give them a break and meeting them at their point of need. Tune in to my next article on learning how to overcome the stresses and mental challenges of trauma.

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