“The accumulation of daily emotional wounds has a profound impact on the quality of life” (Meg Arroll – psychologist)

Home “The accumulation of daily emotional wounds has a profound impact on the quality of life” (Meg Arroll – psychologist)
Written by Doug Hampton

(ETX Daily Up) – Resilience, in other words the ability to overcome traumatic shocks, has been a term that has been used excessively since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. But do we really have the weapons and the automatisms, which allow us to face the injuries, minor or major, which affect our mental health? In the book “Overcoming these small traumas that undermine our daily lives”, Meg Arroll, British psychologist, gives the keys to better understand micro-aggressions, professional tensions, financial difficulties, or even simple disagreements, which can have a lasting impact mental health. Interview.

What prompted the writing of a book on minor trauma that can affect mental health?

Over the past few decades, we have come to shine a light on the impact and consequences of major trauma, contributing significantly to reducing the stigma associated with mental health problems. Now that we have a solid foundation, we can move on to a more nuanced view of all forms of trauma, whether major or minor. Small traumas are mostly what I see every day in my practice, but when I tried to find books to recommend to my patients, I couldn’t find any. Yet this accumulation of everyday psychological and emotional wounds, while less obvious when isolated, has a profound impact on individuals’ quality of life – often resulting in high-level anxiety, emotional blunting, and maladaptive behavioral patterns such as as emotional eating, sleep disturbances and interpersonal difficulties.

Human beings tend by nature to relativize these wounds… because there is always worse. How to explain this mechanism that pushes most people to move forward and ignore these little everyday ailments?

This is what I call ‘reversal of the misery advantage’, i.e. the mechanism by which we undermine our own experience because we are very compassionate beings, able to identify that other people may also experience difficulties. This is a common social norm that causes us to miss opportunities to develop strong coping skills. Whenever we do this, we are essentially telling ourselves that we are not worthy of care and attention. If, instead, we take advantage of these difficult experiences to explore ways to improve our lives, not only do we limit the likelihood of developing any of the themes listed in the book, but we can begin to thrive.

The small traumas addressed in the book can relate to love, friendship, school, work, or even hobbies. They actually seem to be ubiquitous… Can we escape them?

The goal is not to avoid small traumas, but rather to use them to our advantage to build a personalized psychological toolbox and a resilient psychological immune system. Trauma, whether big or small, has to do with the impact it has on the individual, not the importance others place on it. This is why an event that affects you deeply may not have the same impact on someone else, and vice versa. It is important to avoid trauma-shaming – if someone says they have been hurt or scarred by an event, they should be believed. The types of small traumas that I see most regularly are experiences that cause feelings of shame or guilt. It can be moral hurt, toxic positivity, microaggressions, or harmful relationship patterns such as gaslighting and coercive control.

What impact can they have on physical and mental health?

This cumulative trauma can have a profound impact on physical and mental health. In particular, I see many patients suffering from burnout, particularly emotional exhaustion, chronic fatigue, emotional numbness, difficulty dealing with life transitions, and problems dealing with stress and anxiety. All this gives the impression that life is without joy, that we walk every day in molasses, without respite.

The approach you develop in the book is based on the AAA method. What is it about ?

I developed my AAA approach from psychological theory and evidence-based practice. I recommend, at least in the beginning, to follow the steps in order, the time to become familiar with the process. The first step is awareness. It’s about uncovering our unique constellation of small traumas and how they can influence our life experience, including our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. The second step is acceptance. This is often the hardest part of the process and the step many people try to bypass – yet without acceptance, trauma of all kinds will continue to unduly influence their daily lives. The third stage is that of action. Awareness and acceptance are not enough, we must take action to actively create a life well lived. The book is full of practical ways to get through these stages, no matter what kind of small traumas or symptoms you are experiencing.

In the book, you say that it is impossible to be happy all the time. How to make the difference between the absolute quest for happiness and the malaise due to certain everyday ills?

We tend to pursue absolute happiness in the mistaken belief that everything will be fine and that it will allow us to avoid some of the emotional pain and work necessary to overcome all kinds of trauma. In that sense, these brief bursts of happiness act like a drug and, like substances, over time we develop a tolerance and crave more – but more will never be enough. This concept, known as the ‘hedonic treadmill’, does not bring lasting well-being. Rather, we should seek to nurture our ‘Emotobiome’, the population of our inner emotional world, with the full spectrum of human emotions. These include experiencing the feelings produced by minimal trauma, without which we can very often revert again and again to maladaptive patterns of behaviors and thoughts that serve us little purpose.

Anxiety is often associated with failure, but you are talking about functional anxious people, those who succeed in everything because anxiety is then considered a driving force. How to get rid of it in this specific case?

Fear of failure is an important driver of anxious thought patterns. It is then about ruminating on the past, often replaying an event and dissecting every detail through an incredibly harsh lens, or worrying about the future and what might happen by not meeting one’s excessively personal standard. high. It’s not a particularly joyful or peaceful way to live. It is necessary to distinguish perfectionism from success by an exercise that I call ‘the examination of reality’. It’s about scoring the worst things that could happen by letting go of one’s perfectionistic tendencies, followed by the odds of that terrible outcome actually happening – which is usually very low! Finally, consider the cost of maintaining these unrealistic standards – often an unbalanced life, with little or no time for self-care.

The book aims to help people build ‘psychological immunity’. Can we really acquire the necessary defenses to be permeable to all kinds of trauma?

Like physical immunity, the psychological immune system may face new challenges in the future. However, by developing a series of psychological antibodies, one has much greater emotional immunity and internal resources to deal with these difficulties in the form of coping skills. These are like job skills in that they are transferable to different situations – once you have your own wellness toolkit as the basis of your psychological immune system, you can build on it, but the foundations are there for you to thrive, not just survive.

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