Yes, sharing our feelings, experiences, and worries with our loved ones can help us process difficult emotions but what happens when sharing turns into oversharing?
When does venting about our experiences become trauma dumping?
We all know that one person who constantly shares their problems without pausing to consider how we are feeling or how their sharing might be affecting us. And sometimes, a normal conversation about relationships will turn into hour-long discussions about childhood trauma or toxic upbringing.
The problem doesn’t lie in talking about trauma, it is a serious problem when sensitive experiences are shared in an unsolicited way, in an inappropriate place, and to the person who may not be open to hearing the experiences.
What Is Trauma Dumping?
Trauma dumping, unlike venting, is usually unsolicited where a person “dumps” their traumatic feelings, thoughts, and experiences onto another person who may not be prepared for it. Trauma dumping is not limited to face-to-face interactions.
We have so many thoughts, irritation, anger, all bottled up inside, and to find a place to vent such feelings, we often unconsciously resort to trauma dumping.
Some people may feel that sharing their traumatic experiences with a close friend, family member, or colleague might be safe but they may not always understand the severity of what they are sharing.
When someone experiences trauma, they may compartmentalize from the said trauma to protect themselves. This can become confusing as people may speak about their trauma in the same manner as they would do with venting.
While trauma dumping isn’t abuse, there is still a very thin line between venting, oversharing, and trauma dumping. The purpose of trauma dumping is to request sympathy. When you vent, you are aware of what you’re expressing i.e., bottled up emotions, and that venting is a one-time thing.
Trauma Dumping vs Venting
Venting is a healthier way to express emotions, feelings, and experiences whereas trauma dumping can be toxic and can even traumatize and overwhelm others. Trauma dumping is unaware dumping of experiences that can affect others’ mental health whereas venting is a process where you are aware of what you’re expressing. Where venting is a one-time thing, trauma dumping is repetitive.
The Role Of Social Media In Trauma Dumping
Social media may be considered a safe platform to share experiences you may not be comfortable sharing in person. With social media’s reach, it can make it more likely that you’ll get validation, different opinions to reframe your thought process, and a sample audience to test how others are reacting to your story before you share it with your loved ones.
Also, with the trauma brought on by the pandemic, social media has opened up many opportunities to spend more time talking and reaching out to others with similar traumatic experiences.
Why Does Trauma Dumping Push People Away?
Sharing traumatic experiences can help when done in a safe space but trauma dumping is not helpful, especially as trauma dumping is done to gain others’ sympathy or attention.
You have to be careful that you are not sharing information while looking for people to respond with the same sympathy and concern over and over again. Doing this can cause others to create distance between you and them.
Others may feel:
Uncomfortable with listening to details about your trauma
Unsure of how to respond appropriately
Resentment toward you for not realizing how your experiences are affecting them
People who trauma dump are usually wanting to feel heard or validated but also isolate themselves because they dump on others without being aware of their actions.
Signs You Might Be A Trauma Dumper
If your sharing is pushing people away and if you’re not sure if it’s trauma dumping or not, look out for these signs:
You vent about the same feelings repeatedly. You do not reframe, cope, or move on
You don’t let others present their opinions or views on your experience
You find yourself in one-way relationships where you vent to others but fail to hear their experiences
You fail to ask others about their lives or give them a space to ask you for advice
Once you recognize the signs and understand the consequences your actions can have on your mental health as well as social health, you can reach out to a professional or someone who is equipped to discuss your trauma.
Before you contact them, you can ask what is your goal or motivation for sharing your trauma with them. You can start the conversation with statements such as:
“I’ve been through something hard for me to deal with and may be hard for you to listen to. Are you in a place where I can talk to you about my experiences at this moment?”
Psychologists say that learning about different trauma support and therapies such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or seeking individual or group therapy for trauma by a mental health professional can help.
You can also practice mindfulness and grounding exercises to help process your trauma. Activities such as journaling or letter-writing can also help your brain to process your trauma in a different yet helpful way.
How To Respond To Trauma Dumping?
If you’re someone you’ve been getting dumped on, you can try validating the other person’s feelings and express empathy but tell them that you don’t feel comfortable with being in this conversation. You can offer them help and redirect them to a professional or someone who is equipped to deal with trauma dump.
Stressing out your loved ones, friends (online and offline) is not a replacement for professional help. If you’re struggling with dealing with a traumatic experience, it is recommended you speak to a professional.
A mental health professional can help guide you through your experience and offer you a place where you can safely reflect on your experience and gain empowerment over your life.
There is a big difference between trauma dumping and venting and while sharing your experiences with others can be helpful, oversharing your trauma can push people away if you’re not careful about what, how, and with whom you’re sharing.
If you’re experiencing difficulty in processing your trauma, it is recommended that you seek a professional’s help immediately. You can connect with one of many licensed therapists on BetterHelp.
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