Trauma Based Reactions

Throughout this piece I use the phrase “trauma based rereaction” and occasionally “trauma based decision making”.  These phrases are commonly used in the helping fields when dealing with the psychological effects of trauma. They are meant to describe the mindset and reactions common to people with PTSD or symptoms of it. If you view the world as unsafe, if you view others with suspicion, if you feel harm could happen at any time, if you feel compelled to constantly scan your environment for danger, you respond differently to situations than a person who feels secure or optimistic.  Period.

A person in the grips of trauma based decision making or behaving via trauma based responses is a person with a focus on safety-at any cost. We all react differently to situations when we are frightened or startled.

A LARGE piece of this dynamic is that high levels of trauma based reactions can be baked into our cultural norms without us necessarily being aware of it.  Imagine you are a child and both of your parents suffered from PTSD.  In your home it would be normal for people to react to strangers with more fear or suspicion than other families might show.  Kids who grow up in families where there is violence routinely believe some amount of violence is a “normal” part of life.

Kids who grow up learning that there were (as a conservative estimate) 40 million casualties in World War II have to “normalize that horrific fact, and may tend to believe war is inevitable.

Concepts closely related to this are “fear based thinking”, “fear based decision making”. There are all kinds of evolutionary reasons why we go into these decision making and response modes. But there are even more reasons why we need to be aware of the pitfalls of doing so.