Trauma-informed storytelling

I have watched Peaky Blinders and WandaVision recently, and they are both examples of trauma-informed storytelling.

Having some understanding of trauma, and telling stories reflecting how trauma plays itself out in real life, is not new. But I am wondering if there isn’t an upswing in trauma-informed storytelling these days, perhaps because there is a slightly better understanding of trauma in the mainstream.

In both these series, the main character(s) are severely traumatized, and they react to their own pain in a way that hurts other people. The stories show us the connection between what they went through, which was no fault of their own (war, multiple losses), and how they react to their pain in ways that hurt others (gang violence, making meat-puppets out of citizens in a rural town).

Hurt people hurt people. In a way, that’s the essence of how trauma plays itself out. And that’s what these stories show.

Instead of making the “bad” people into one-dimensional villains, they are shown as real people who hurt a lot and only know how to deal with it by hurting others.

This opens for empathy with people in this situation, and we can probably all find times in our own life where we hurt and reacted to in ways we are not proud of. And that obviously doesn’t make these actions OK. In real life, we still need to do what we can to prevent hurt people from hurting others.

This is multi-faceted and includes working at all levels to provide help for those who experience trauma, preventing trauma at collective and individual levels, and obviously preventing actions that cause harm.

More specifically, this includes… Trauma education for teachers, therapists, police, and people in other people-oriented professions. Good social safety nets and social justice since poverty and social injustice are major sources of trauma. Sustainability since ecological devastation is, directly or indirectly, another major source of trauma, and we’ll see more of it in the near future. And lowering the threshold for seeking out and finding help.

Another small piece of the puzzle is trauma-informed storytelling, as we see it in these two series. It’s one small step in the right direction.

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