This post was updated on Feb 25, 2023
Most of us are familiar with the feeling of realizing we overreacted in certain situations. Sometimes it’s others who point it out while we might not even be aware of our behavior. However, it does happen that people unwittingly create intense situations because this is where the distinction between genuine trauma and plain drama becomes more blurred.
The definition of trauma can significantly vary from one psychological source to the other. Some of them classify adversity that many of us experience during life as trauma, while others claim that this is a trivialization of the issue. However, most experts agree that trauma is a type of stress reaction, so let’s take a look at the most common definition so we can notice the difference and understand the mechanisms behind the trauma response.
Trauma is usually described as any event that has long-term negative consequences and effects on the emotional and psychological well-being of an individual or a collective that can often include a distorted feeling of self, others, and the environment. This can include events like natural disasters, the death of a loved one, attacks, injuries, or accidents. But it may also be the result of long-term abuse, childhood neglect, and even long-lasting hardships that transfer through generations, like wars, poverty, or abuse.
What Is The Difference Between Trauma And Drama?
To make a distinction between trauma and drama, we’ll look at trauma as a scary, violent, or otherwise profoundly negative event, series of events, or type of behavior we might have endured, that left lasting pathological consequences.
Drama, in this context, would be one of the ways we respond to experienced trauma. It’s a psychological reaction that can lead us to create intense situations or conditions even when there’s no real threat. Certain parts of our brain can’t tell the difference between the two and all perceived threats, even minor ones, can trigger a flight or fight response meant to protect us from danger.
Many people will create intensity instead of intimacy because of untreated trauma.
If you can’t tell whether you’re trauma dumping or simply venting and sharing your frustrations with someone, it might help to pay attention to these behaviors and ask yourself if you’re:
- Oversharing, often at inappropriate times.
- Not truly looking for a solution to the problem.
- Not assuming responsibility for the mistakes behind your current problem.
- Pouring out many different issues at once, jumping from topic to topic.
- Not allowing others to share their own opinions, emotions, or hardships.
Can Trauma Become Drama?
Trauma is a more significant issue than commonly stressful everyday experiences that happen to all of us. The way we respond to it may point to more severe issues and often, underlying mental health problems. The range of trauma-related experiences is wide and the resulting emotions, if left unaddressed, might lead to trauma dumping as a coping mechanism.
People who went through traumatic situations might be interpreting neutral or mildly uncomfortable situations in a significantly more pessimistic light because both their minds and bodies became stuck in the traumatic experience they went through.
People get critical of their partners, avoid or attack, and the old patterns of false protection gain momentum.
True trauma often involves terrifying experiences like abuse, physical threats, attacks, or injuries. People who experience such events, particularly in childhood, may not even know where their emotions come from or what trauma is. In such cases, healing can take quite a long time and usually requires professional help.
If you leave trauma-related emotions unaddressed, they could easily be brought to the surface even by trivial everyday hardships. Damage done by traumatic experiences can cause the primal parts of your brain to activate the flight or fight response even when it’s unnecessary.
This creates HAVOC on relationships – especially on primary relationships. Then, what happens is expectations are unrealistic and challenges arise.
It’s also possible to experience flashbacks or extreme fear in situations that trigger traumatic memories. When the brain goes into the flight or fight response all trauma-related feelings like fear, anxiousness, or panic can drive a person to react in the same way as they would if they were seriously threatened.
What Is Trauma Dumping?
Trauma dumping is an expression used to describe pouring out all your negative emotions and frustration on another person. While sharing your emotions, worries, or meaningful life events with your friends or coworkers is perfectly fine and healthy, there’s still a line. Like the pretenders song suggests, “There’s a Thin Between Love and Hate”.
The need to vent after a distressing day is natural and most of us do it. However, there are many cases when this can become too much for the person on the receiving end of it. If this kind of behavior becomes toxic for your relationship it could be a sign that you might need to look into your well-being and address all these intense emotions. Many relationships break up due to these unrealistic expectations.
Oversharing your emotions can be tiresome or harmful for the other person which presents a problem for the both of you. On the one hand, if the person experiencing trauma dumping doesn’t get a chance to respond and share their own feelings, they may feel overwhelmed. On the other hand, if you’re the one who’s trauma dumping, you might be doing so because you’re experiencing intense distress related to:
- General anxiety or depression.
- PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
- Stressful professional or home environment.
How Do I Stop My Trauma From Becoming Drama?
You might become aware of this type of behavior pattern yourself, but it’s more common for someone else to point it out to you after you start having relationship issues. Since people are unable to see themselves from the outside, someone else’s input may be crucial in this situation. It could be a close friend, family member, spouse, or even a complete stranger. You could suddenly find yourself having to deal with a realization that you’ve overreacted to an insignificant situation and while your feelings are real, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the threat is too.
And guess what? Most people will get defensive and create more drama because they are not strong enough to look at themselves in the mirror. It’s often too painful. The inability to own one’s behavior because of entitlement birthed out out of old wounds is another factor that contributes to relationship break-ups.
Maybe you get flooded by emotions and triggered by various issues you face in your daily life. If most of them carry no significant threat, your emotions are causing behavioral patterns that may not be appropriate for the situation. Of course, some situations do pose a serious threat, but those are much less common. Trauma survivors might even be unusually calm during such situations because this is what they’re expecting. You might experience fear after the event has passed, particularly if you suffer from a more severe form of trauma like PTSD.
Since these reactions are instinctive and come from a primal part of our brain, they’re quite difficult to control. Trauma recovery is something you can practice, usually with professional help or coaching, and it requires changing your thought and behavior patterns. It may take a while and require considerable effort, but new ways of thinking and acting can be gradually adopted with committed and consistent work
Learn How To Manage Your Emotions and Behavior to Change Your Trauma Response
Trauma dumping can go far beyond being simply uncomfortable – it can seriously affect your relationships, even the most intimate ones. You might be pushing people away and not even realizing it. If your close relationships feel one-sided to the other person, particularly your romantic partner, the very survival of your relationship might be at risk.
Our individual sessions can help you explore the emotions that are making you act this way and redirect your damaging thoughts and behaviors to accomplish that much-needed change. If you feel like there’s no escaping the stress of your everyday life, Glass House retreats may be the perfect solution for you. PIVOT coaches lead small group workshops where we provide each other with support and understanding to achieve recovery from trauma and build healthy relationships.