Corrie Godoy-Contois

 

Unravelling societal reliance on trauma narratives, which serve as a currency for empathy, a tool for reinforcing power structures, and a factor influencing the production of knowledge.

Visualizing the Problem

Major systems, such as media, education, government, and community, all shape our understanding of and interactions with the world. These influences often contain characteristics of socially patterned reliance on representational and symbolic trauma as catalysts for learning, caring and engaging. Simply put, the narratives we depend on to gain knowledge, trigger empathy, or take action are often coded in trauma. We learn about, or are simply reminded of, systemic issues like racism when we see stories about police violence against members of the black community. We dive deeper into broader historical and contextual issues that have always existed only once we are collectively incited by movements like Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). We normalize content wreaking of ‘trauma porn’ as a form of entertainment through societal addictions to media like true crime. Demystification of this challenge reveals how frequently marginalized identities are centred within these narratives and disproportionately impacted by them. The societal dependency on trauma narratives displays the idea that representation of empowerment is somehow less valued than a demonstration of trauma or the traumatized. An incessant cycle of the same narratives around the same groups exists, where trauma acts as a currency for empathy and prescribed narratives are a mask for reinforcing certain power structures. So what do we do about it? First, we seek an understanding of the prevalence of these narratives and the reasons for their recycled use. Next, we consider our role as contributors, while identifying how these narratives have shaped or affected us on societal, community and individual levels. Lastly, we find ways to disrupt the systems at play and flip the narrative.