We commonly think of trauma as a terrifying, life threatening event.
Examples are car accidents, traumatic medical emergencies, crime, and terror.
In fact that’s the definition of trauma given by the authoritative manual of psychiatric disorders, the DSM V:
‘The person was exposed to: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, in the following way(s):
- Direct exposure
- Witnessing the trauma
- Learning that a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma
- Indirect exposure to aversive details of the trauma, usually in the course of professional duties (e.g., first responders, medics)”
While there is no doubt that the DSM’s definition is authoritative, it leaves much out of what the vast majority of people experience as trauma.
Look at it this way:
Trauma requires two ‘ingredients’:
The unwanted event and how you experience it.
The DSM V emphasizes the unwanted event yet tragically and mistakenly leaves out the personal experience of the event.
In the DSM’s approach to trauma, all that is important was the presence of a violent event.
The personal effect is neglected.
But that’s the most important part!
How you feel after what you’ve gone through and the person that you become because of it.
So let’s looking at it this way (and leave the DSM on the side):
An event or a series of events, can shatter you and compel you into a chronic state of traumatic stress, makes the event traumatic.
As we’ll discuss further in coming blog posts, the state of traumatic stress is encompassing: it effects us physically, socially, spiritually, sexually, and intellectually.
In fact, from a Jewish perspective, the experience of trauma is akin to violent unwanted death.
As I wrote about previously, the essence of human existence is autonomy and self hood.
To be alive, gloriously functioning human is to be able to come and go, to form relationships as one pleases, to learn new things, to fail and then to master whatever one wishes.
To be denied that is to be denied life, God forbid.
And treatment for PTSD is to become alive again.