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Trauma Denial and LONG ISLAND COMPROMISE by Taffy Brodesser-Akner


Cover of the book Long Island Compromise by Taffy Brodesser-Akner used to teach mental health concept of Trauma Denial

Carl Fletcher was leaving for work when he was kidnapped from his driveway. He was taken for a petrifying week, not knowing where he was or what would happen to him. During that time, worried that Carl was dead, his pregnant wife Ruth and son (Beamer) performed a scary ransom drop, and the older boy (Nathan) maintained four-point contact with his mom, which didn’t quell his anxiety.

 

Carl returned traumatized. But, he was frequently admonished that he should move past the kidnapping because it happened to his body, not him. As if he and his body were separate entities.

 

Decades passed. The trauma was left unsaid. Carl became a shell of his former self. Ruth dedicated her life to easing Carl’s path. Nathan’s anxiety grew, manifesting in obsessive risk avoidance. Beamer, convinced that happiness was something he could find in enough overstimulation, developed multiple addictions. Jenny (the baby) grew up untethered, never learning to connect via loving relationships with either parent.

 

The Fletchers did not talk about the kidnapping. But it impacted them. In fact, the trauma denial worsened the impact of the trauma.

 

Trauma denial is an unhealthy coping skill used to put distance between people and their traumatizing experiences. The thought process is: “If I pretend it didn’t happen, it won’t impact me.” But, trauma denial ultimately is a denial of one’s own experience, an offputting incongruency. When trauma is carried in silence or avoided, it becomes overwhelming in the body and mind. Processing and integrating the traumatic experience mitigates future mental health problems.  

 

Here are ways to reverse or avoid trauma denial:

 

Respect the Reality of the Trauma: When something big, scary, and traumatizing happens, treat it as such. Replace minimizing or avoiding with validating your feelings and experience.

 

Recognize All the People Impacted: When a person experiences trauma, it impacts those around them, who might take undue responsibility, fear future safety, or otherwise struggle.  

 

Seek Professional Help: Trauma-informed therapists can use talk therapy, EMDR, art, or other therapy modalities to process and integrate traumatizing experiences.


 

 

 

 

 

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