27 Feb Bonus YSS: Trauma and the self at school
Can trauma happen at your school? In your classroom? On the playing fields? In the hallways? The answer is yes. Although lots of us go to school and face difficulties that are not traumatic, some people will experience trauma at school with events that you may or may not experience as traumatic yourself. As noted above, everyone is different.
Below are some examples of how certain incidents affect our sense of self in a manner that may feel traumatic for some. Our sense of self is made up of our social, emotional, physical and cognitive selves. As you will see, some events can impact our entire self, perhaps even in ways not considered…. until now.
Feeling left out: Puh-leeze…. this feeling is rampant, ubiquitous, constant, pervasive! (How many more SAT words can we throw at you?) Teens feel left out. all. the. time. Not picked for the team. Not invited to the lunch table. Not part of the group. Social isolation is one of the most damaging experiences a human can have. This is brain based. The brain evolved based on the need for social connections. Take our word for it, or this post would be muuuucchh longer.
Being bullied: This is a form of the first example – feeling left out. But being bullied can mean more than just being socially isolated, it can take the form of outright abuse, including physical violence, name calling, threats and mean comments. All of these can be traumatic. You can read a lot more about bullying here.
Social media – Not “followed” or “liked” or “snapped” or anything….has an effect as well… and yes, this is yet another form of being left out. In this case it affects your sense of self – who you are – online. You can also have harmful things posted about you, secrets revealed and threats made… so yes, this is also a form of bullying too. Our experiences in the Digital World are very real and so they can have a very real impact on you. Click here to read more about Social Media.
In all of these examples, this is how your sense of self may (maaayyyy) be impacted:
Social self – you feel socially drained and/or picked on and wonder if there’s something wrong with you
Emotional self – you feel hurt, anxious, confused, you-name-it. Maybe even fragile if these things are happening to you.
Cognitive self – you may find concentrating or focusing on any kind of schoolwork difficult when you’re wondering if you’re invited to the party, if you will be bullied again or disappointed online.
Physical self – you may lose your appetite or have trouble sleeping. You may suffer physical injuries, have headaches or stomach aches.
Below is another example to illustrate, again, the extent to which a situation can impact who we are socially, emotionally, cognitively and physically.
Intimate relationships – yep, like with your crush, girlfriend, boyfriend, S.O. (significant other). Abuse can happen within these relationships. Some people control their partners through abuse of power and make their partner feel very weak, vulnerable, scared. These actions and the subsequent feelings can lead to trauma. (Click here to read about Dating Abuse). But, in fact, because our selves are so invested in out romantic relationships, even careless behavior on the part of our S.O.’s can cause trauma for some.
Social self – when controlled by an abusive person, they often cut off your social ties first. This makes you feel isolated (see “feeling left out”)
Emotional self – abusive relationships hurt; we feel betrayed, humbled, shame and so many terrible feelings but also we feel trapped.
Cognitive self – when we live in fear or confusion, the brain does not function optimally
Physical self – The physical self is connected to all the other aspects of who you are, so when you feel isolated, shame and confused, your physical self may shut down a bit, weakening your immune system, make you feel tired or provide other signs of distress (headaches, nausea, etc.).
As noted above, people respond to events differently. Just because your friend is not bothered by a rude social media post doesn’t mean that your being upset by one is strange or wrong. Many people experience the above mentioned examples in school or in life and don’t feel any sort of trauma. But other people might. Overall, your sense of self can help to determine how you do react: if your sense of self is strong, you are less likely to experience these events as traumatic. By breaking down the possible reactions to trauma into the different aspect of the self, hopefully you can better see how the self can be affected by – or protected from!- trauma.
Yup. That’s one of the reasons why we keep promoting a strong sense of self – it helps you to manage life’s challenges and to keep them from seriously impacting you in a negative way. Building your sense of self is about the best proactive measure you can take to protect yourself from nearly every obstacle, vice, bad mistake, wrong choice or sloppy second thought you have.
To build your sense of self, keep reading this website.
What’s happening at your school that you think may be traumatic to students?