Dear Dr. X,
I am writing to you in reflection on our recent session. In considering whether to continue as planned and scheduled, I have to think about a few aspects of this thing “trauma.” What is “trauma” and why should a person seek “help” from a person who practices a certain type of “therapy” for trauma, and why would a person seek a professional of that type, say, instead of simply letting the passage of time heal that trauma?
They say that time heals grief better than any other remedy. That the best thing to do is to do nothing at all, to let oneself grieve in the way that one might naturally do, and that there isn’t one right nor wrong way to do this, nor formula, nor cure. Each culture has its rituals. Interestingly enough, I have read that some cultures have rituals for victims of rape, ways that communities embrace, rather than witch-hunt those that have been harmed.
I am thinking of the story Sasha Menu Courey, who committed suicide because she was socially othered, made into a mental diagnosis by the University of Missouri’s counseling center instead of embraced by her college community. I am thinking of Toni Morrison’s amazing first novel, The Bluest Eye. And yet rape in itself is not an uncommon event in a woman’s life. Many are raped. It is how those around her react after the rape that matters more.
Most people experience trauma in their lives, even horrific traumatic events. You can reframe just about anything and using the right suggestions, a person might interpret an event as “unusual traumatic event.” You might also add the suggestion that the brain gets “stuck” in trauma. Then, the person might start noticing that they need “fixing” by a trauma expert.
Here’s where I object to the trauma claim about “stuck in fight or flight mode.” I do not agree with the claims. I don’t care how many studies and how many statistics you can throw at me. I don’t care how many degrees you have on your wall and how many “experts” back up these claims. I do know that YOU and a few others are profiting off of telling people they’re stuck and that ONLY experts such as yourself and your “methods” can get us unfortunate souls “unstuck.”
Now this looks like an amazing selling point, doesn’t it? Given the number of people out there who have had traumatic events in their lives, you’ve got quite the market. If you were to truly advertise just a bit more, you could rake in the profits to the psych survivor community and have a line going out the door and all the way across the continent.
I don’t think folks buy it, though. And I think that’s why the lines aren’t out the door. I suspect that folks are healing from trauma via the passage of time anyway.
As I spoke to you the other day about how I was horribly abused in the hospital in 2011, I noticed a few things. Back in 2011, and certainly 2012, I couldn’t have spoken to anyone in the relatively calm way I did while in your presence. In fact, while trying to explain it all to attorneys over the first few years following the abuse, I found my speaking rate was so fast that my words became too garbled for them to understand. This tells me that surely my “condition” has vastly improved. It also tells me that by all means, a person is capable of improvement, entirely on her own. I don’t think I’m “stuck” in fight or flight at all! In fact, I’m in much better shape than I was before.
Because I was abused in a hospital I became short of temper and could not converse very easily with other people. This was because I was reminded of the abuse in my everyday life very frequently. However, just a day prior to my meeting with you, Dr. X, I conversed over the phone with three “customer service” type representatives and navigated through these conversations just as well as I had done prior to the abuse. I was amazed that I stayed on the phone with them for a full half hour dealing with financial “red tape” and didn’t lose my cool.
If I believe the trauma experts’ claim of stuckness, I’ll stay stuck. If I throw off the claim and make the choice to refuse to believe that the brain and body really do get stuck, I can heal. Either way, making this choice isn’t even necessary as I already have healed. I can choose to see the obvious staring me in the face, or I can choose to ignore my own improvement, and see an “expert” to “cure” what doesn’t need curing.
Although I am grateful that after telling you about the hospital abuse, you didn’t say, “The abuse didn’t happen,” nor did you say, “The hospital must have been right,” I feel that trauma therapy isn’t quite necessary at this point in my life. I fear furthermore that to go to therapy could potentially do more harm than good. The very act of being a “patient” again even for one more appointment will re-traumatize me. I cannot afford to take that risk.
Nonetheless it was nice meeting you.