Trauma is a repeated incident in the mind of a trauma survivor. While the development of PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, is rare in trauma survivors, there can be ongoing emotional stress. That stress is activated in response to triggers, or stimulating information which elicits memory of the traumatic episode. In order to recovery from trauma, patients learn to manage their emotions and direct their minds away from constantly replaying the traumatic event. Being in a constant state of reminder is unhealthy and often unmanageable.
This is more than metaphor. When there is a particularly violent or traumatic event that makes national headlining news, it is replayed non stop 24 hours a day. Every new piece of information is discussed in depth, with gory details and disturbing videos on repeat. Not only is this constant loop traumatizing in general, but for people who have already experienced trauma in their lives, it can be extremely triggering and cause emotional distress. Psychologists and researchers alike have found that continuously taking in such content can develop in someone symptoms of PTSD where they have perviously had no issue. Professionals agree that one of the best things to do is turn the TV off. Turning off the constant influx of traumatizing messaging and media is not the same as turning off awareness or even emotions to the experience. It is important to continue talking about what has happened to us in our past. However, there has to be a turn off point before the overwhelming feeling of re-traumatization takes over.
Addicts and alcoholics in recovery from addiction face a similar challenge. Drinking, for example, is a part of daily life. Advertisements for alcohol are everywhere, just as alcohol is sold and offered just about everywhere. Avoiding the stimuli of alcohol is incredibly difficult. Alcoholism is a traumatizing experience which leaves recovering alcoholics sensitive to its presence, especially in the early months of the recovery process. At first, they may need to shelter themselves from repeating the trauma. Continuing to indulge in romanticizations of the past, or reliving the “good old days” of drinking is like watching traumatic news over and over again. At some point we just have to accept that the drinking days are over. We turn the TV off and stop playing the tape.