I have been noticing that words such as trauma, anxiety and depression are being used with increased frequency. Perhaps due to the multiple campaigns reminding everyone of the importance of mental health, social media has finally broken the thick walls of stigma associated with trauma, anxiety and depression. On the other hand, I wonder how these terms might be incorrectly applied.
There have been a few times that I have heard the diagnosis: ‘I think he/she has trauma’. In reply to this loaded claim I remain quiet and thoughtful, wondering if the visibility of these themes has turned real issues into something more casual and light. Ultimately, it seems easier to see what might be potentially wrong with others rather than looking within ourselves.
Aware of how shaming and limiting giving someone a label can be I want to share my experience with you:
One of my biggest ‘Aha’ moments when training to become a counsellor was the realisation that there are many subtle shades between what may seem black and white. If my experience is not your experience - why then would I assume I know what you are going through? As different individuals, we don’t only walk a different walk, we also come from different settings and inhabit different stories- and perhaps inviting myself into someone else’s shoes might not be enough.
In Gestalt therapy, the counsellor has the understanding that remaining actively curious is fundamental throughout the therapeutic relationship (between therapist and client). Only in this way can there be space for the relationship to be mindful and genuinely occur in the present moment (here and now). To further support this point, Joan Garriga writes that “some couples do not relate with each other based on the person they have next to them, rather with the previous images that have been built of that person throughout time. They live in the past and forget to update themselves each day.” This is something that limits my vision of those around me. Having a complacent approach is a way to remain in the dark.
On a final note and as a form of self-care and self-preservation, I try to bring that curiosity into my personal interactions, inviting novelty into each relationship - understanding that we are constantly changing.
Garriga, J. Bailando Juntos (Spanish version) Kindle edition (2020) Ediciones Destino, Barcelona, Spain.