AFP – If you have ever felt uncomfortable, even trapped, in a conversation with someone who revealed painful elements of their life, you have probably experienced “trauma dumping”.
While this psychological concept is far from new, the word is increasingly used to the point of going viral.
You may have already found yourself in that situation where someone you just met at a party approaches you and pours out all their woes without you seeing it coming.
While heading to the kitchen simply to get a refill for your drink, you’re confronted with an overly intimate confession from someone you hardly know. A break-up, a case of harassment at work, even a bereavement… some people feel the irrepressible need to share their negative emotions linked to a traumatic event, even with casual acquaintances or complete strangers.
But for the other person, this type of avowal can quickly become oppressive, even distressing if they haven’t given their consent to engage in this kind of conversation.
This is called “trauma dumping”.
This “pouring out” or “discharge” is often referred to as “venting” in everyday parlance.
The term “trauma dumping”, used by psychologists, refers to a one-way conversation in which someone pours out their negative emotions and/or experiences to another person, but without ensuring that the other person is willing to listen attentively, or even hear those words passively.
“When we bring up traumas with someone who is no prepared or professionally trained, we risk that they may act or react in a way that further triggers the speaker and unknowingly reinforces the trauma they experienced,” said Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, United States Dr Billie Katz, in a 2022 HuffPost article.
As you read this, you may be wondering if you yourself have this annoying tendency to trauma dump.
If you’re getting increasingly anxious about it as you replay your last few conversations in your head, don’t panic. Everyone has been both victim and perpetrator of trauma dumping, especially in an era in which we are encouraged to break taboos surrounding mental health and express our emotions (including negative ones).
Considering the current context and the crises that have been unfolding over the past few years (eg climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, inflation, etc), it’s no wonder that many of us have been indulging in confessing some darker emotions.
How to avoid falling into trauma dumping? It’s natural to confide your feelings regarding a painful event in your life to someone close to you.
But be conscious of your confessions: it’s important to make sure that the person you are opening up to is willing to share in this conversation.
The discussion should be an exchange, not a constant flow of words that leaves no room for the other person to speak.
You should also ask yourself if you are doing it in the right place at the right time.
Exposing your worries in the middle of a party when you are surrounded by many other people who are there to simply have fun risks spoiling the atmosphere!
If you’re going through a difficult time and feel the need to talk about it, or even vent, it is advisable to see a specialist.
“A therapist is the best option, as that person is trained to listen attentively and help you process the emotions.
“If you unload the bulk of your burdens onto your therapist, you won’t need your friends as much to talk about your negative experiences,” American psychiatrist Dr Tracey Marks told Insider.
And if the shrink’s office isn’t your cup of tea, putting your emotions on paper by writing regularly (for example, in a journal) can also be beneficial and help you evacuate your anxiety.
Trauma dumping is not the only type of social interaction that draws on the idea of “dumping”.
Recently, the virtual world has seen the emergence of a phenomenon that the Canadian dating application Plenty of Fish identifies as one of the major dating trends of 2023: “Eco-dumping”.
But in this case, the meaning of the word “dumping” is radically different, as it’s about dumping someone because you think they don’t care enough about the planet.
This trend is particularly prevalent among Gen Z, who are looking for partners who are committed to the environment.