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How to Tell Your Trauma Story But Not Over-Identify with It

January 22, 2024 Sammi Caramela

Healing from my trauma required me to tell my trauma story — but not to over-identify with it. When I first began my healing journey, I would talk about my trauma to anyone who would listen: new friends, strangers on the Internet, distant family members, etc. In a way, telling my trauma story — and owning what I'd been through and how I got myself through it — empowered me. It gave me a sense of purpose and a feeling of pride; it also gifted me with much-needed validation

Sharing your trauma with safe people can be an important part of processing what you've been through. However, there are some dangers to over-identifying with your trauma story.

The Dangers of Over-Identifying with Your Trauma

As noted above, telling my trauma story was empowering for quite some time. I began to view myself as strong, worthy, and resilient rather than shameful, weak, and flawed. However, I eventually reached a point where it was all I could talk about. I over-identified with my story and trauma so much that it nearly became my entire personality. Little did I know that this habit — which once served me — was now keeping me small.

For years, I fed into the idea that I was permanently damaged and unable to lead a fulfilling life. I almost basked in my victimhood, as it excused my behavior and toxic thought patterns. Any time I faced adversity, I would tell myself, "You're struggling because you went through x, y, and z as a child."

Rather than taking accountability, I blamed most of my issues on my trauma. Of course, this isn't to say that my trauma didn't greatly impact my life and my nervous system — it certainly took a toll for decades. However, I was the one who continued to fuel the narrative that I would never overcome it.

Not only did I crave validation and sympathy when telling my trauma story (which is natural and perfectly okay in small doses, by the way), but I also willingly surrendered my own power. I recounted the story in a way that painted me as a vulnerable victim who couldn't possibly save herself — and I started believing it. If you choose to sit in your victimhood, over-identifying with your story for too long, you might end up doubting your ability to get better. You might even find comfort in those negative emotions and beliefs because they're so familiar. 

Telling Your Trauma Story Without Over-Identifying with It

I am in no way implying that you shouldn't tell your trauma story, and I'm certainly not demonizing victimhood, either. In my case, if I hadn't self-validated my being a victim, I never would have deemed my trauma "bad enough" to receive help. I never would have sought therapy and professional guidance. I would have kept brushing it under the rug. The issue arises when you adopt a victim mindset that renders you helpless.

You can tell your trauma story in a way that empowers you. This starts, as most positive habits do, with mindfulness. Be self-aware when sharing your story. Ask yourself: Do I feel more empowered or more ashamed when recounting my trauma? Am I lessening the intensity of my emotions associated with this memory, or am I fueling them? Am I opening up to safe people, or am I allowing the wrong individuals access to my most intimate, vulnerable memories? What are my intentions behind telling my story — to help myself (and others) process and heal or to gain more validation and justify unhealthy behavior?

Based on the answers to the questions above, you might consider shifting the way you speak about your trauma. Sharing your darkest memories should help you address the pain they inflicted, not deepen the wounds — and certainly not paint you as powerless.

For more information on how to tell your trauma story without over-identifying with it, check out this video:

APA Reference
Caramela, S. (2024, January 22). How to Tell Your Trauma Story But Not Over-Identify with It, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2024/1/how-to-tell-your-trauma-story-but-not-over-identify-with-it



Author: Sammi Caramela

Sammi Caramela is a freelance writer, fiction author, poet, and mental health advocate who uses her writing to help others feel less alone. Find her on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and her blog.

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