Trauma Breakdown 1: Did I deserve it?

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Transcript S1E19

Trauma Breakdown 1

Hi, welcome to the It's Like This Podcast, your common sense, mental, and spiritual talk show. My name is Dr. UeJin Kim, a dual-board-certified psychiatrist from Texas. In this podcast, I explain mental and spiritual concepts with fun analogies, real stories, and a positive message so you cannot just survive, but thrive. My goal for you is to gain understanding, acceptance, and healing so that you can know your worth and live the life that you were meant to live. If you want that as much as I do, hit that subscribe button and let's listen to today's episode.

In this episode, we're going to be talking about trauma. Statistics about trauma are so real and so sad. About 6 out of every 10 men, or about 60%, and 5 out of every 10 women, about 50%, experienced at least one trauma in their lives. And Samsung reported that at least one in seven children has experienced child abuse or neglect in the past year. That is amazingly high. So, I know that this episode is going to hit home with a lot of you guys. It affects everyone, not just the victim, but also the perpetrator's family and friends.

But I want to kind of focus on trauma. And I'd like to explain trauma in a way that hasn't been done before. Because it really hints at the spiritual question of "what do I deserve?" Did I deserve this? Did I deserve such evil things in my life? We're going to break down trauma into components that really point to the spiritual significance of traumatic events. And I'm going to be careful as much as possible, since this is a very sensitive topic. But I do have a trigger warning in this episode. Especially if you have had a traumatic past, this episode might elicit unpleasant memories or sensations.

On the other hand, I do think that the information in this episode will help you, and I would really encourage you to listen with somebody that you trust to help you stay grounded and keep your thoughts restrained. 

So, let's talk about trauma. The term "trauma" is derived from Greek and means wound. So, Webster's Dictionary says "trauma" means a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. Nowadays, we hear the word "trauma" very frequently. A breakup could be a traumatic experience, or the unexpected ending of a Netflix series can be described as traumatic. But I really want to bring the word back to its origin and capture the gravity of it. Trauma causes wounds—sometimes physical wounds, sometimes sexual wounds, but almost always emotional wounds, mental wounds, and spiritual wounds.

There are two big categories of trauma: big-letter T trauma and small-letter T trauma. Trauma (with a capital T) is when your physical life is threatened, like in car accidents, natural disasters, rape, or physical assault. A small-letter T trauma is when you are threatened and in a very unsafe setting. But not necessarily to the point of threatening your physical life, like inappropriate sexual touching, neglect, or bullying at various degrees. But I will tell you that the wound is not necessarily smaller just because it's a small T-shaped trauma.

I want to make some observations from a psychiatrist's perspective about trauma before we dig into the components of trauma. The same traumatic event can happen to two different people, and their wounds can be of varying severity. One might not have any signs of PTSD or an emotional or mental wound. The other one could have very severe levels of PTSD and severe signs of wounds. And they're both acceptable, and they're both appropriate responses to the same trauma. This difference does not make trauma for one person with little to no signs of PTSD insignificant.

Or, if the person has more PTSD and wounds, or is weaker, a different response to the same trauma occurs all the time. And also, it is possible that the same perpetrator who violates one person can be a loving father or friend to someone else. I think it's important to note here that, as a victim, this truth can be so hard to accept and is internally gaslighted. And I think the fact that this truth has been used to gaslight the victim and his or her narrative I just want to take a moment to empathize with the victim. Because you might have heard directly or indirectly, then your narrative is wrong or inaccurate. because the perpetrator has not wronged anyone else.

I want you to know that your narrative matters here and actually don’t need anyone else to validate it. But I also want to focus on you and your health first, rather than painting this perpetrator as a 100% evil person. I believe we'll discuss what it means for someone who witnessed abuse or neglect in a subsequent interview with therapist Jenny Lee. How do they move forward? And it actually matters less about the perpetrator getting justice; it matters more about you. So, I just want to kind of dedicate this episode to you to validate your narrative, but also focus on your health and healing first.

So let's talk about the components of trauma. and I'm going to try to simplify this as much as possible. But it's so complex and complicated, as you could imagine. But I'm going to try my best to simplify it. At every event of trauma, there are two components: a lack of consent and the presence of pain. And because of these two components of trauma, a lot of implications and applications happen in your life. And I'm going to be digging that a little bit deeper. So, when we say consent, I want to use examples of how I give consent for treatment to my patients when they come into my office.

It is my job to explain the pros and cons and advantages and disadvantages of each treatment option, including not getting treated. I'm to explain the prognosis and diagnosis of the illness at hand. and what they would imply, as well as how each treatment—or lack thereof—would alter the course of events. In this dialogue of consent, it has to be appropriate for the listener, given their age, maturity, and developmental milestones. It has to be accurate and true. And it has to respect that person and their autonomy to obtain that consent. And we have to deem that person to have the capacity to consent.

So a lot of times when we think a patient has psychosis or dementia and cannot really understand the pros and cons, there are a series of evaluations that we do to say whether they have capacity or not. So, I'm going to be using examples of abuse and neglect and just explaining how there was a lack of consent. A lot of times, I hear about situations where the victim of sexual assault was intoxicated. And they wake up, believing that they gave consent to the perpetrator. because they said yes, or because they were part of the act. when a person is intoxicated to the point that they cannot differentiate between the risks and benefits of an encounter. This is not proper consent. They were not; they did not have the capacity to consent.

So, I just want you to know that "getting consent" while intoxicated is not a fair consent. I also heard stories of similar sexual assaults where the victim was gaslighted or threatened. So, if you don't do this, then your family is going to suffer. Or if you don't do this, then I'm going to embarrass you. Or you bought this assault for yourself because you were wearing that outfit. This is not a fair consent dialogue. This is a threat. This is not a complete list of pros and cons for each act. So, this is not a fair consent when you are threatened with being embarrassed or putting your loved ones in danger, or when the perpetrator transfers their responsibility for abuse to the victim's outfit.

And also, it has to be developmentally appropriate. So, a lot of adults who perpetrate minor offences say things like, "If you tell this to your mom, then you're going to get in big trouble, or they're going to get hurt, or this is going to be our little secret." This is age-inappropriate consent. I will just say that my five-year-old kid cannot decide if he wants chocolate cake or a strawberry cake.

If you ask him multiple times, you get so annoyed, and he will have decision fatigue from having to choose what flavor of cake he wants. Consider asking for "consent" from a minor on a thread with unimaginable consequences if he tells the truth. This is unfair consent. So now you can see the patterns of the ideals of consent and how in each traumatic event there's no consent, there's no fairness, there's no appropriateness, and there's no respect for the victim of trauma. And this is how I defined the lack of consent component of trauma.

Now, there is a second component of trauma, which is the presence of pain. and nobody likes pain. I don't think anyone would go out of their way to welcome painful events, especially rape, abuse, or neglect, in their lives. And a lot of times, because of the pain, it really confuses the victim. They do not want to go through the agony of pain again. So, then it rewires our decision-making process to avoid the pain. And perhaps to have a sense of control in order to avoid experiencing pain in the future. And let me just give you some of the examples of how the presence of pain can warp your decision-making.

So, pain puts us in a fight-or-flight response. It drives us to run. Remember episodes seven and eight on anxiety? Pain is the trigger, and it triggers a fight-or-flight response. And after that response, there's compensatory behavior. And running to get answers or even a sense of control confuses us into going to solutions, even the wrong ones. Running to get away and find even temporary safety This trauma makes us desperate, confused, and very vulnerable. One of the classic ways that people make that compensatory behavior out of the pain of a traumatic event is that they try to put themselves in a seemingly safer environment.

Perhaps, in order to get away from the abusive boyfriend, you enter another relationship back-to-back in order to have that sense of security to protect you. And even if he was a little less abusive but still abusive, you would take that over your past experiences. Or I've heard victims of sexual assault tell themselves that they're consenting to it to enjoy it. Or I see a kid in a more dangerous neighborhood joining gangs that killed their siblings or cousins in drive-by shootings in order to gain that sense of authority over avoiding pain. If you can't beat them, you become one of them.

Or as a victim of trauma, abuse, or emotional abuse, you'll start to build up anger and bitterness and start to take revenge or hurt someone else. Another perfect example of avoiding a component of pain is that you start to want numbness from that pain. That pain was caused not only by the specific event, but also by the Ricochet of pain. Why me? Or what have I done since that happened? This kind of disappointment and failure to meet expectations accumulates, and PTSD frequently leads to recklessness. And that's one of the PTSD criteria.

And occasionally, people will engage in substance abuse or even hypersexual behavior. Or even driving recklessly and speeding on highways. And this is explained by a desire to be pain-free. And how I like to describe the difference between PTSD recklessness and manic recklessness is that, when you're manic, you have a sense of purpose that only you can provide to the world. and you start to feel very grandiose about your abilities and your roles in this world. However, PTSD recklessness makes you feel as if your life no longer matters. And they don't really care if they live or die, so they live on that fine line of danger. That is how I describe PTSD recklessness.

So, in terms of the presence of pain and trauma, I just want you to know that trauma is a powerful component. And it will perplex you, leading you to choose solutions or situations that are not ideal or best for you. But because it creates confusion and makes you vulnerable, it leads you to solutions that are less than ideal. And this often makes the victims of one traumatic event more vulnerable to future traumas. Now let's bring the two components together: the lack of consent and the presence of pain. And then one traumatic event occurred. What does that mean or imply in our lives?

So, when there was a presence of pain without our consent, it was usually done by a higher power, such as natural disasters or car accidents, and nobody was intentionally trying to harm you, as opposed to a human being who is intentionally taking something from you, hurting you, and bringing pain into your life. At the end of the day, it makes us question our worth and what we deserve. Do I deserve consent? Do I deserve respect? What kind of control do I have in my life? Do I deserve safety? Do I deserve food, shelter, and clothing? Do I deserve attention? Do I deserve acceptance? Do I deserve healing?

There are many unanswered questions about what I deserve. And what do I have control over? That tension between our basic needs and our luxurious needs really blurs the boundaries of what you deserve. A lot of times, victims were gaslighted and threatened for asking for these basic needs. respect, safety, and acceptance, or even just civil rights to report crime. So, in the end, the combination of lack of consent and the presence of pain. The victim starts to ask questions, but they don't feel entitled to ask for something so basic. They start to question their worth.

And this is why you can revisit episodes 10 and 11 on depression of worth, because traumatic events definitely shape your sense of worth. And do I matter? What do I deserve? All these questions come up after traumatic events. And really, one of the interesting observations that I made was that I have a lot of patients who have gone through traumatic events. And there's a question of: What do I deserve? Finally, after the crisis has passed and they are embarking on a journey of healing, they have no expectations for their future. And let me explain this:

It's almost like a very somatic thing with my PTSD patients. They ask me, "Do I deserve healing?" Can I hope and dream for healing? Is this the best we'll get? Just tell me, and I'll accept it until the day I die. But it's almost like it's too painful to hope that something better could happen. And this is a very common theme among my PTSD patients. And I just want to pause here and tell you: you did not deserve what happened to you. No one deserves what happened to them. Especially if it is harmful, toxic, unsafe, dangerous, or consented to unfairly.

But on the other hand, there's evil in the world. So how can we bring that together? I want to separate the events. from your worth and what you deserve. You do not deserve that. You do not need that. You deserve something better. You deserve safety. You deserve acceptance and validation. And you deserve healing. and you can get that. Your path may appear very different to someone who has not experienced what you have. But you deserve that, and you can get that. It just might look different getting there and when you get there.

But I want to separate the event's worth from your worth. So, I hope this episode piqued your interest enough to elicit some of your memories. But I didn't go too deep into it because I knew that this was a sensitive topic. So, in summaries like this, every traumatic event leave wounds. And the size or depth of the wounds has nothing to do with the strength of the victim. or the significance of a traumatic event. Everybody has a different response, and that is okay. Furthermore, the same perpetrator could be a loving father or mother to someone else, and they were perpetrators against you. That is not okay. and that should not happen.

But it could be true. It could be the facts. And this fact might have been used indirectly or directly to gaslight your narrative. And I'm not here to invalidate your narrative. Your narrative stands and is valued here. But I want to focus on you and your healing, rather than justifying or judging the perpetrator as a whole person. I want to focus on you. And then I broke down the components of a traumatic event, saying that there's a lack of consent and the presence of pain. And the combination of the two will make anyone question their worth. What do I deserve? Do I matter? Why did this happen to me?

It might be used to devalue you and lower your worth. But at the end of the day, I want to separate the event from your worth. And you did not deserve what happened to you. And you deserve healing. You deserve acceptance. You deserve validation. and the journey is going to look very different. but you can get there. And I hope that you stay for the next part of the trauma breakdown. And I'm going to be talking about how to turn that narrative around. Maybe you are in a stage where, because of traumatic events, you live a reckless life or hurt other people. And you have led a "life of disappointments" or chronic numbness with substance abuse. At this point, how can we turn that narrative around? So, I hope that you stay tuned for the next episode. And thank you so much for being here. I love you guys, and I'll see you next time.