Elephants and Trauma: From Pachyderms to PTSD and What You Should Know

Elephants and trauma: they’re really not that different. But to see their similarities, let's talk first about what trauma is and then we can move onto that large pachyderm in the room.

For so many people, trauma can be one of those things that you never want to talk about, but especially with another person. A number of things can pass through your mind when thinking of THAT THING that happened. Maybe you actively try to not think about it. Maybe it “wasn’t that big of a deal” or “it happens to so many people, why should it bother me” or even “so many people have it worse, surely I’m not one of those people”. The truth of trauma however, is that there’s no preference for this person over another for who experiences trauma. Trauma can be from something as significant as deploying to a warzone or even as common as exiting a troubled marriage that might have even felt like a war zone at times. There are no guides to what qualifies, but simply how you experience the feelings you have surrounding those memories.


Justification is Not a Cure

But, “I don’t have PTSD or anything like that” so “surely it isn’t a big deal”. This is another fairly common justification that we can share with ourselves, to help to minimize the effect that an experience has on our well being. Revisiting an experience over and over, or making some rather significant life changes as a result of whatever it is that happened, these can all be some signs that point towards trauma. The thing about trauma is, we don’t get to pick IF it affects us, just how we handle the effect it has on our lives.


So what does any of this have to do with an elephant? Ask any of my previous clients who have gotten to hear my theory on elephants, and they might laugh, but they are likely still on the lookout for any potential new elephants to peek their way into their lives again.


The Elephant Theory

So here it is, my theory on elephants: “Elephants in the room are obnoxious and no one invited them. If you acknowledge them and give them the time they need, they shrink and may even leave the room. But if you ignore them? Eventually they may grow larger and larger until there’s no space in the room except for you and your elephant.” So much like trauma, eventually after some convincing that “everything is fine, I don’t need to address it”, that weight can set in on your chest as the elephant grows and presses you into the wall. Those thoughts may become more difficult to avoid. You might end up changing your day to avoid those elephant tracks that remind you of your big gray friend. Maybe subtly, maybe suddenly. It might come and go, but the one sure thing is that it is having an effect on your day to day life. For some people they choose to fill their time with work and other obligations so they don’t have to go back to that space to be alone with the elephant. For others, the elephant can drive out the space in your life for friends, hobbies, and other things you enjoyed and loved. The interesting thing about elephants (and trauma) is they’re all unique, just like the people who experience them.

Find A Trauma Informed Counselor

So, while we might not be much of an expert on elephants at Mind Works Counseling Services, I know each of our counselors is more than willing and able to help you stare down that thing that is taking up so much space in your head and to push past whatever trauma you might have experienced.


Learn more about the Trauma Counseling services we offer.


Contact us to schedule an appointment or to let us answer any questions you may have.

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