by Benjamin Fry
Recently I read in The Sun about Charlotte Hothman and her obsession with looking like one of her barbies. I was compelled to write…
Much of the drama of life comes from the combination of two separate factors. Firstly we are all familiar with the experiences that confront us in what we might call the real world. In trauma theory we would call these triggers. They are the real events which confront us in our life; in this case perhaps the split from her previous boyfriend, but could equally be something as benign as a sharp word, a familiar smell or someone’s overwhelming personality.
The second part of our life’s drama comes from our reaction to this trigger. In trauma theory we understand that as we go through life with unfinished reactions to prior events, we accumulate a deficit of unfinished business. This becomes our trauma reservoir, which can be like an unexploded bomb. So when a trigger hits the bomb, there is an explosion. That partly explains why two identical situations affect people in such different ways; the triggers can be the same, but not the reactions, because each person carries their own unique set of unfinished reactions to prior events.
Mostly our response to this is to seek to gain some kind of control over triggers. If we are reactive, then we want to be triggered less. That’s common sense and makes our lives more bearable. In this case, Charlotte appears to have taken the popular idea that if “I just look right then I’ll be ok” to the ultimate extreme. Firstly she has engaged in a fantasy world, where everything will go her way, and therefore there will be no triggers; and secondly when, in fact, things have not gone according to plan romantically, she has upped the ante to fully inhabit her fantasy as much as possible.
Unfortunately whatever Charlotte looks like, her reactivity will remain the same to the triggers which will always be out there. The real path to security and safety is to lessen the trauma reservoir so that everything is more bearable. That is the path to true freedom, anchored in the reality of our own inevitable vulnerabilities.
Benjamin Fry works across a range of services and media using personal, professional and scientific expertise to help people to a baggage-free life. A published author, and a past columnist for The Times and Psychologies magazine, Benjamin is a social activist in mental health. He founded Get Stable in 2010 to get effective treatment paid for by the state and his great passion is to bring treatment, which works, to all levels of society and across all severities of conditions.
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