The Hidden Face of Trauma

The Hidden Face of Trauma

Do you know that feeling of relief and excitement when things finally seem to turn around?

For most people, the year 2020 has been tough. No exception for me either.

A number of my speaking engagements were cancelled and conferences moved online.

Unfortunately, I wasn't really prepared for the online rush and I'm still slow to that game.

As you can imagine, frustration built and then some depression set in and the next thing you know I've watched too much Judge Judy.

And then the email arrives or the phone rings or you hear from someone unexpectedly and, bam!, just like that your day/week/month is made.

Each of those happened, an email and phone call, and from it came a speaking engagement, an opportunity to submit a training proposal, and a lead on some more work.

Of course, as I've shared with a friend, "It's all talk till someone writes you a check."There's been a fair amount of talk about how traumatic COVID-19 has been on people, especially children.

When it comes to leadership, I've learned the trauma people face is usually hidden from view.What is often on view are the symptoms of trauma. People want to be released from the stress accumulated from years (or at least months) of trauma.

However, people will only share their trauma when they deem it safe to do so.

It's incumbent upon leaders to do everything in their power to create a safe environment and to recognize how trauma has affected employees.

Erin Winstanley, an associate professor in the University of West Virginia's Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry and Department of Neuroscience, reminds us of this sobering fact.

  • “Setting gender-based differences aside, the rates of sexual abuse for both males and females was notably high. And the other thing you have to keep in mind that this is only what happened before they were 18. One of the things that we are also interested in is accumulation of risk across the life course. Oftentimes, many people who may have experienced sexual or physical abuse during their childhood may go on to experience it in adulthood.”

As you know, sexual abuse is only one of any number of traumas which could have been referenced by Ms. Winstanley. The challenge is whether leaders are willing to hear what is being said by the academic, physical, and mental health professionals.

Are we willing to give people what they crave: a safe space where they can be seen and heard so they can flourish in their life instead of floundering?

I hope so.