Trauma is a word that is often associated with severe experiences like physical abuse or a life-altering event. But trauma can take many forms and can stem from seemingly insignificant things. It’s like death by a thousand paper cuts—small things that add up over time and create a deep wound. Trauma is something that everyone has experienced to some degree, but it often goes misunderstood because it is such a normal thing in our lives. In this article, we will explore how trauma creates bias and, equally, how bias creates trauma.
What Does Trauma Look Like?
Trauma can come in many forms. It can be a result of emotional, physical, or mental abuse, neglect, or exposure to a life-altering event. However, most people don’t realize that trauma isn’t just limited to these kinds of experiences. Many people who face constant negative reinforcement, like being put down or made to feel that they aren't good enough, also experience a form of trauma. The cumulative effects of microaggressions can create wounds that are just as deep and long-lasting.
People often think that traumatic events are the ones we remember the most, but that's not necessarily true. Instead, these experiences often manifest through how we react to things in our daily lives and how we view ourselves and others. Traumatic experiences, if not dealt with effectively, can have long-term effects that include various struggles like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many people don't realize that trauma can occur from seemingly harmless experiences that happen over time, so it's important to spot the signs for deeper healing.
How Can Trauma Lead to Biases?
Trauma fundamentally alters how we perceive the world and react to situations. This influence can often be unconscious, deeply ingrained in our psyche. Consider the instance of an individual who has experienced abandonment trauma; they may find themselves excessively anxious about rejection in their interpersonal relationships. They could become overly cautious, always on guard to avoid perceived threats of abandonment, even when there's no real reason for concern.
Similarly, children who grow up in households marked by financial instability or substance abuse may adopt a mindset geared toward survival. This early-life stress can result in a bias towards stringent financial control, even when they achieve economic stability in adulthood, or intolerance for any form of substance use, even in moderation and when used responsibly.
Likewise, a strong negative encounter can have a ripple effect on how we view similar situations or people. If we associate a certain type of person, a specific location, or a particular object with a distressing or traumatic event, we may develop a bias against anything that reminds us of that experience. This could manifest as an irrational fear or a deep-seated resentment, affecting our ability to engage objectively with similar people, places, or circumstances in the future. This phenomenon showcases the breadth and depth of trauma's impact on shaping our biases.
How Can Bias Create Trauma?
A person's pre-existing biases or prejudices, particularly those related to others, can yield tangible, often adverse, outcomes that may precipitate trauma for the individuals at the receiving end. These biases involve premature categorization of individuals based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to race, gender, sexuality, or other non-determining characteristics. Such hasty classifications often give birth to snap judgments and unfounded assumptions. The resulting behavior can potentially traumatize others, engendering feelings of alienation, fear, or contempt.
The interplay between trauma and bias is a harmful cycle that can be intercepted by self-recognition and acceptance. While the past remains unchangeable, identifying and understanding the biases that drive our actions can help disrupt this cycle. Accepting the influence of trauma on our lives is crucial. Opening up to ourselves and others about what emotionally stimulates us and striving for a deeper comprehension of our own and others' identities and experiences paves the way for transformative healing.
Interesting in healing emotional trauma? Learn more here!