Those who may have resolved, buried or moved on beyond their trauma may sometimes have rekindling of it, either when they have another trauma or hear of another real life story or through the media.
The ‘Relived Trauma’ refers to the reliving of the experience including emotions whenever the memory may be evoked by listening to the narrative or story of a person who may have gone through a similar trauma. The social media or media at large and specially repeated images or captions can precipitate such trauma. It may happen even in persons who have gone through it and may have resolved it to some extent. The relived experience may due to the heightened traumatic memory and feels as if the experience happened yesterday. However, there are changes that happen in recall or the final details or the context in which it may have happened. You may keep going through the trauma in your mind in many different ways.
The hallmark of ‘MeToo Relived Trauma’ is the freshness of the traumatic event, additional emotional disturbance that you may have faced over time, real or perceived insensitivity and injustice by all those around including family, work place and society. Sometimes, the trauma is much more if you are facing stresses in other areas of life or if you have suffered social boycott, denial of work, legal complications or physical/sexual abuse at the time of trauma.
Sandhya (name changed) came from a small town but wanted to dram big. She was smart and well read. She was able to soon get placement in a media-house as a reporter. She soon realized that being in a creative work, she has to be in synch with latest trends and she started accompanying another senior male colleague for stories for the office. The timings were erratic and tiring but very satisfying. She was also getting a lot of appreciation from him and her stories were getting exposure like never before. She was on a high of work.
She can’t forget the day she became uncomfortable by his proximity while coming back from an assignment in the night, he touched her in the car and tried to grope. She tried to move away as she could not shout because others were around. This pattern started happening frequently. When she spoke to him, he said it could be accidental and she is imagining things! It continued for many days and her attempts to get other assignments failed as according to the organization, they were doing great work together!
Sandhya was going through hell internally. She was doing very well in profession and yet the monster of being invaded by someone she respected was eating her from inside. She continued to have anxiety, sleep disturbances, feeling ‘dirty’, lack of trust in men and humanity. She couldn’t focus on work and after sometime, got out of the organization to a less prestigious one but without everyday stress of seeing that colleague or feeling helpless.
Sandhya was over time able to tell herself, ‘it happens to everyone and I am not at fault’. She was able to slowly came to terms with it and also met male colleagues who respected her for her work, would keep their distance and she also was very careful of proximity of male colleagues. She had relationships also which were with her consent and was able to integrate the experience as her past till one day, it got relived.
Sandhya was watching a Television interview with another person who was sharing her experience of MeToo and how she felt an emotional trauma subsequently. It was as if an emotional file of Sandhya’s past opened up and same night onwards, the situations, the feelings and the trauma started ‘reliving’ in her mind. She would stay awake at night as waves of these memories would flood her and it went on for a few days. She stopped watching similar content and reminded herself that it was over, she had no roles to play in it, she was a different person now and that whatever the past, she could have a peaceful present and future.
For anyone like Sandhya, if trauma of a ‘relived experience’ is too traumatic, it needs healing first. The strength one gains may also help others who may be going through ‘relived trauma’. The media too can play a proactive role of not sensationalizing such content and prevent rekindling of trauma.
The extent to which these MeToo situations happen within or outside work place, between those who are working together or even within the society needs healing. The extent to which millions may be living through trauma of a lifetime needs a healing touch. It is not only necessary for the huge emotional burden to the individual or others around but also to prevent women dropping out of work, economic loss, loss of self-esteem and burden of physical or mental distress or illness.
There are many strategies that individuals can apply for themselves, others around them, within a family or friend circle who may be undergoing or having undergone such a trauma and also institutions/work places as well as law enforcement and the society at large. The incidents, victims or perpetrators may be gender neutral. The healing also can be offered by anyone, of any sex in whatever position keeping certain basic principles of healing techniques and counseling in mind.