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Being A Trauma Survivor In Times Of Political Tension

Trauma comes in three forms. First-hand experience is trauma which happens directly to us. Secondary trauma is trauma we experience through the trauma of others. Tertiary trauma is trauma which we are removed from, like terrorist attacks on the news, but that we are still affected by. In recent years, violent events and the chronic coverage of these violent events have shown us that secondary and tertiary trauma are incredibly real. Just watching too much news coverage of either a violent event or political drama can result in high levels of stress which manifest into symptoms of trauma.

The current political climate in the United States of America is inarguably tense. There’s no denying the stress and tension of our political state, regardless of political stance or party affiliation. Today’s world necessitates attention to the existence of political and electoral trauma and the symptoms we can experience when we are highly distressed due to political tension, elections, or events.

Research Shows Elections Might Inspire Traumatic Stress

The Journal of American College Health published a study in October of 2018 which found that the high political stress and tension of the 2016 presidential election caused many college students to develop symptoms of trauma. More than 700 students were surveyed, which makes the sample size of the study exceptionally small when compared to the very many hundreds of thousands of students in college nationwide. Utilizing the Impact of Event Scale, student participants answered questions in an assessment pertaining to the 2016 presidential election. One quarter of the students demonstrated what researchers would categorize as “clinically significant” stress, Healthline reports, “with the average score measuring up to those of people seven months after witnessing a mass shooting”.

Is Political Trauma Real?

Whether or not political events could result in the development of a full diagnosis of PTSD is still to be discovered by research and science. However, the basic definition of trauma as described by Judy Crane in The Trauma Heart makes it clear that trauma symptoms absolutely can result from political stress. She defines trauma as any single or series of life events which drastically change the way one sees themselves, their world, and their place in that world.

Political trauma isn’t just about policy or partisan decisions. Political identity is more than partisanship. Often, our political identity is a manifestation of our values morally, ethically, personally, and a demonstration of our ideas about the world, as well as how other people in the world should be treated. When a political event causes such disruption that our core beliefs, which are some of our core ideas of ourselves, our world, our place in that world, and the place of others in that world, are challenged, that can be extremely traumatizing. Our sense of selves and our sense of the world are shaken up in such a way that we can feel as though we lose our footing, lose our faith, and lose hope.

The fear which is inspired by anxiety related to how insecure and unsafe the world will be if a political ideology opposite to our own takes control can also be traumatizing. Stress in America, a report published by the American Psychological Association last year, found that over 60% of people un the United States feel that they experience a significant amount of stress from their fears about the future of their country. If politics are tied to other sources of trauma, like they very much are this year with a tragic number of mass shootings having taken place, and a very public trial regarding the legitimacy of a woman’s claim that she was sexually assaulted, that political, national, and even personal security stress becomes magnified.  

Coping With Political Tension

Living as an alumni of trauma treatment in today’s age means we have to live in the face of political trauma and events happening within politics which might trigger our own personal experiences of trauma. We have a few choices, which are our rights as American Citizens.

Participating in politics is not a requirement. Part of our freedom of speech means not having to have an opinion or a care about politics, no matter how important people tell us caring is. We can choose, and it is our right to choose, to opt out entirely. Don’t read the news, don’t watch the news, don’t engage in political conversations, and don’t deal with election seasons. It’s possible, and it’s within our rights if we choose.

For many of us, political identity and political engagement is part of our right as a trauma survivor. We want to and need to feel that our voice matters in the decision-making processes of our country which determine specific parts of how we are able to live our lives and the quality our lives will have. If we want to be politically engaged, we can take steps for self-care during especially tense political times. We can:

        • Limit our time on social media platforms, which are prone to explosive political arguments and personal attacks based on political beliefs
        • Limit our consumption of news coverage regarding politics, elections, and more
        • Get our votes in as early as possible so as to decrease the amount of phone calls, texts, and political solicitations coming into our daily lives
        • Choose who we have political conversations with carefully and when an otherwise healthy conversation turns unhealthy, gracefully exit
        • Remember that politics are always going to be politics, but people are always going to be people. Most times, the intensity of someone’s political beliefs are a direct result of intense experiences in someone’s life and parts of someone’s identity which are intensely held onto for specific reasons.
        • See the world with as much empathy, compassion, and grace as possible, realizing that everyone is entitled to their beliefs, everyone has the right to free speech, and everyone has experienced, or will experience, some kind of trauma in their lifetime
        • Keeping to heart that regardless of political stance we are one united state of people because we are one united species of human beings

When you graduate trauma treatment, the rubber meets the road, as it is said. To live successfully in recovery from trauma, addictions, or related mental health issues, we need the care and professionalism of an experienced, specialized staff who provide us excellence in treatment. Our alumni learn how to thrive in their lives not in spite of trauma, but because of it. We’re always here to welcome those in need of help at The Guest House Ocala. Call us today for information and resources: 1-855-483-7800