Real Talk

Trauma Dumping: What It Is and Why We Do It

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Trauma Dumping is quite different from venting and as parents, we have a tendency to do it with our kids.

Sometimes, while disciplining our kids, we suddenly start going off on them about how our parents punished us even though it isn’t related to the problem at hand. That’s what psychologists and psychiatrists call Trauma Dumping. While we can hide our emotions and pain consciously, it’s in the heat of the moment that a lot of our unresolved feelings and pain gush out. We dump, make a speech, rant, cry, and go on without stopping. That’s what many know as trauma dumping.

But what’s the difference between venting and trauma dumping?

Although they look the same, the difference is that some of us are actually aware of what we’re venting about. We don’t vent about everything save the things that annoy us or don’t make sense. Like, why do our kids outgrow their clothes too quickly? Why does traffic never seem to get better in Metro Manila? We vent about these things because it is frustrating. Many sympathize and empathize with our plight and at the same time, offer solutions. Plus, a lot of us have already accepted some of these things as a part of life.

Trauma dumping, on the other hand, is when we just keep on going about the traumatic event without caring about how uncomfortable others are being. Conversations don’t always trigger it but somehow, those who trauma dump find a way to connect it. At some point, that’s the only thing they talk about, which ends up isolating them from other people.

Why do we engage with trauma dumping?

When we’re left with painful and negative feelings without achieving any closure, we look for other people to help us find them. It can be in the form of light conversation where trauma dumping can immediately shift its tone into something darker and heavier. Trauma dumping most commonly appears when we’re disciplining our kids. While teaching them, we’re also fighting down our triggered feelings from their mistakes. Unfortunately, not all of us can catch these triggers immediately and thus pour out everything to our kids. This then causes the roles to reverse that our kids become the parents, addressing our emotional needs instead.

Is it toxic?

When we’re not caring about how our oversharing of our negative emotions is already causing discomfort, that’s when it gets toxic. While all of us deserve a moment of comfort and peace, we’re not entitled to demand that from others. Many of us who engage in trauma dumping subconsciously ignore others’ mental welfare because we want closure but haven’t decided how and what kind we want.

How do we stop ourselves?

There’s no one solution to stop ourselves from trauma dumping because we all have different forms of closure. Some of us prefer burning the bridge with the person who hurt us as one form of closure. Others would rather see the person who hurt them in jail. But trauma is composed of two halves: one is negative feelings against the other person and the other half is towards the self. Many of us suffer from trauma because we’re still angry and hurt for ourselves. “How could you let this happen to yourself?”, “How could you be so stupid?” — these thoughts are what we deal with when confronting our trauma.

Dealing with trauma means allowing ourselves to grieve.

Sometimes, we don’t allow ourselves to grieve because we know that our kids rely heavily on us. We believe that by drowning ourselves in work, the feelings would go away. But there’s a difference between distraction and escapism. It’s okay to use work to distract ourselves for a moment so that the feelings can settle. But using work to escape means throwing ourselves into it so that we can avoid dealing with those negative feelings. This is what eventually leads us to trauma dump.

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