This is Us - Trauma

Season 2 Episode 5, Brothers gave us a lot of information about the Pearson family that we didn’t have before. We learn that Jack had a brother named Nick, Deja has had quite the experience in foster care, and Rebecca and Jack’s dad meet for the first time. The strong impacts of trauma stood out in this episode both with Deja’s story and Jack’s. 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD shows up in people’s lives when they have lived through a life threatening situation (or witnessed someone in a life threatening situation) and their minds don’t know how to file the incident away. Our brains are constantly trying to make sense of what we are experiencing and usually trauma doesn’t fit into the boxes we already have laid out. If before trauma we believe that the world a generally good place then trauma throws us for a loop. If we believe the world is a dangerous place trauma more deeply confirms that this is true. At this point it is common for people to start believing that the trauma was their fault or they in some way deserved the trauma. In the moment its the only way the brain is able to make sense of what happened. 

Dealing with all of these thoughts takes a tole on the body and mind. People dealing with trauma usually have trouble keeping memories of the trauma at bay either through thoughts, nightmares, of flashbacks. There is also something (a place, person, event, item) that they avoid to keep from thinking about the trauma. Lastly they have negative thoughts or feelings that started or got worse after the trauma. Having all of these things going on in their minds at once can be very distracting. Often this causes people dealing with trauma to react strangely to their environment or have trouble keeping friendships alive. In order to protect themselves from potential threat they often react in anger or isolation. 

I think we see slight signs of this in both Jack and Deja. Jack avoids talking about his brother. There are hints of thoughts he may have about his brother’s death being his fault. He responds to Kevin and Randall’s disagreements with a little more force due to this topic sitting heavy with him. Deja is the same way. When Randall tries to keep her from eating the shrimp tail she responds in a way that most people would think doesn’t match the situation. Deja is hypervigalent to any harm that might come her way. This keeps her from being able to connect with the Pearsons like she might want to. 

Even if the diagnosis of PTSD isn’t met, those who have experienced trauma might have some of the symptoms discussed above. It can mean a world of difference to have someone offer them a second chance and understand why they might respond in a strange way. It’s important to support those you know who have experienced trauma so they have the opportunity to heal. Predictability is key. If you have influence over someone’s life who has experienced trauma try to make a schedule they can count on. It is also very important that they feel safe in their home. These symptoms don’t have to last forever. With proper attention, and the chance to view the trauma accurately, these memories are able to be filed away in a way that no longer disturbs the person. 

Some Things to Consider:

1. Have you experienced some type of trauma in your life that keeps you avoiding certain thoughts, memories, or emotions? Who could you reach out to in order to start sharing your story?

2. Is there someone in your life that shows signs of struggling with PTSD or symptoms of trauma? How might you create a sense of safety when you are around them in order to help them heal?