Jeff Brown quote on trauma: finding its validity and the bigger picture

This is an unusual type of article for me. I don’t often examine a quote that doesn’t resonate with me so much. I nearly left this article unpublished, along with a few thousand other articles (!), but thought I would go against my habit and make it public!

At the very least, this article shows some of what goes through my mind when I see quotes that don’t immediately make sense to me or feel a bit off. I try to find the validity in it, and in what context it makes sense. And I also explore, to some extent, what it leaves out and the bigger picture.

Why I typically use quotes from just a few sources

There is a reason most of the quotes here are from a few sources – Byron Katie, Adyashanti, and a few mystics from the spiritual traditions. It’s because what most spiritual teachers say often feels a bit off to me. It doesn’t necessarily mean that what they say is actually off, it just means it doesn’t resonate with me, or there is something I don’t get. I typically don’t examine this in these articles but will make an exception in this case.

Jeff Brown quote on trauma

“Not all traumas were caused by mistakes that require a lesson to avoid repeating them. In fact, most serious traumas weren’t mistakes on the part of the victim. They weren’t events summoned by their unconscious or karma to teach them something they need to learn. They were victimizations. They were attacks. So, let’s stop telling trauma survivors they must learn a lesson from their experiences. That’s just another form of gaslighting. Sometimes, there is no lesson. Sometimes, the most they can do is heal. Let’s support that.” – Jeff Brown.

I don’t disagree, and I suspect this quote is in response to a very specific situation and makes more sense in the original context. That context is missing, although I can imagine what it may have been. Perhaps he talked with someone who was traumatized, and felt unseen and invalidated from people in their life saying “suck it up, it’s your karma” or “you made it happen because of something unresolved in yourself”. That would explain the quote.

In a more general sense, the quote isn’t quite as accurate. There is a bigger picture, which I imagine he may be well aware of.

Unhelpful responses to trauma

They weren’t events summoned by their unconscious or karma to teach them something they need to learn.” Obviously, blaming something on “karma” isn’t very helpful. Nor is a general “you made it happen” statement said at the wrong time or without much empathy or wisdom.

If someone says this, in that way, it’s often a way for them to protect themselves from feeling their own pain. They try to distance themselves from the pain the other person is experiencing since it reminds them of their own pain.

The other side of this is that sometimes, we put ourselves in harmful situations because of our own painful beliefs or past trauma. It doesn’t justify anyone harming us. But if it happens, it’s good for us to examine our own painful beliefs and identities, and unresolved old traumas.

Validating how people feel, and examining stories about victimization

They were victimizations.” Again, he may have said this in a very specific situation where someone needed to feel validated before they could take the next step and examine the victim/victimization stories.

There is also another side to this. The idea of victim and victimization is, in itself, often a part of the trauma. To heal, we typically need to see through those stories about ourselves.

A deeper healing also typically requires that we find and examine the victim-victimizer polarity in ourselves. A component of trauma is often that we keep victimizing ourselves, long after the original situation is gone.

Learning from trauma

“So, let’s stop telling trauma survivors they must learn a lesson from their experiences.” Again, I assume he is responding to a very specific situation where this makes sense.

In general, there is a great deal to learn from trauma.

We can learn…. about ourselves and how to find healing for trauma and emotional issues in general. To identify and examine our stressful stories. To work somatically, for instance through therapeutic tremoring. To have self-compassion. To meet our distress as a good and loving parent. To have a more loving internal dialog. To find a deeper honesty with ourselves and some others in our life. To find deeper empathy. To identify our priorities and reprioritize. To find meaning through helping others who have gone through something similar. And this can transform and benefit us for the rest of our life.

The sequence of working on trauma

There is a sequence of working on trauma that often works well.

First, validate what the person feels. None of it is wrong. It’s perfectly understandable considering what they experienced and their history.

Ask what they want and how we can be of most help to them. Respect what they want.

Be there with and for them. Be a witness. Hold a safe space for them. Allow them to feel and think whatever they are feeling and thinking.

Then, when they are ready, we can use more specific approaches.

Often, using certain emergency measures may be a good for allowing things to calm down a bit.

Heart-centered practices and gentle somatic work is also good early on in the process.

When they are ready, and if it seems appropriate, we may start examining their stories. Not so much through talking, but perhaps through examining the stories themselves through inquiry.

The Jeff Brown quote seems to address the first step here: validation. The quote seems to mostly be about validating what the person feels. It doesn’t address the other steps because it likely wasn’t the right time or place.

Exploring quotes and finding their validity

This quote is an example of something that makes sense in a very specific situation and leaves out much in the bigger picture.

And this post is an example of some of what goes through my mind when I see these quotes. I try to find how and in what situations it makes sense. And also explore a bit the bigger picture.

Most of the time, that happens in a flash. I don’t always take the time to go into detail as I have here.

INITIAL DRAFT

I don’t disagree, and I suspect this quote is in response to a very specific situation and makes more sense in the original context. That context is missing, so I’ll just have to explore the quote itself. It seems he may be responding to a very crude statement saying “suck it up, it’s your karma” or “you made it happen because of something unresolved in yourself”.

Obviously, blaming something on “karma” isn’t very helpful. Nor is a general “you made it happen” statement said at the wrong time or without much wisdom.

There is a bigger picture, which I imagine he may be well aware of.

The idea of victim and victimization is, in itself, part of trauma. To heal, we typically need to see through those stories about ourselves. In the quote, he is reinforcing those stories. And, again, he may have said this in a very specific situation where someone needed to feel validated before they could take the next step and examine the victim/victimization stories.

A deeper healing requires us to examine and see through those stories about ourselves, and also find the polarity in ourselves, find and examine both the victim and the victimizer in ourself. A part of trauma is that we keep victimizing ourselves, long after the original situation is gone.

“So, let’s stop telling trauma survivors they must learn a lesson from their experiences.” Again, I assume he is responding to a very specific situation where this makes sense. In general, and taken out of context, it doesn’t make so much sense. There is an immense amount to learn from trauma. We can learn a great deal about ourselves and how to invite in healing for ourselves, which can transform us and be of benefit to us for the rest of our life.

….

This quote may make sense in a very specific situation, and in response to something that’s left out.

And it makes less sense and can be misleading if taken in a more general way.

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