Have you ever had a phone call that left you feeling drained? Or perhaps there’s that one friend who is constantly telling you their problems, but never really reciprocates the conversation? You may have been the recipient of trauma dumping. Trauma dumping is the unfiltered sharing of strong emotions or upsetting experiences without permission from the listener. Trauma dumping can happen in person, on social media, via text message or phone call. It’s marked by actions like:
- Being inconsiderate of the listener’s time
- Acting reactively or defensively
- Not being open to solutions
In addition to the toll trauma dumping takes on the recipient’s energy, the average person doesn’t have the necessary tools to help people work through difficult emotions. So in the end, trauma dumping isn’t very beneficial for the dumper or the dumpee.
Trauma Dumping vs Venting
Whereas trauma dumping is sharing without filter or thoughtfulness, venting is often an activity that includes mutual respect. The feeling of “needing to let off some steam” is common and it’s normal to share about everyday annoyances and frustrations with a friend, colleague or loved one. Venting often includes feedback from the listener that is acknowledged and valued. One study shows that when a person vents to someone who is not involved in the grievance, and that third party responds with an affirming remark, it can help the sharer feel better.
Trauma Dumping Examples & Signs
Trauma dumping can take many forms. Some common examples of trauma dumping include:
- Frequently texting friends lengthy paragraphs about something that continually bothers you.
- Dominating phone conversations with your thoughts and feelings.
- Being overly reactionary to things you see online that are triggering to you.
Here are a few signs that you might be trauma dumping:
- You notice that listeners are acting uncomfortable
- You are repeatedly sharing about the same experiences without reaching a resolution
- You are not open to your friends’ feedback
- Your friends begin to act distant
How to Process Emotions
People often trauma dump in an attempt to work through their feelings. And while it’s important to experience your emotions (one study shows that suppressing emotions can exacerbate feelings of emotional pain), it’s important to do so in a way that’s healthy.
Instead of unloading on your friend, here are five methods of processing emotions that are more effective than trauma dumping.
1. Talk With a Therapist
Therapists are highly trained professionals who can help you process your emotions. If the cost feels prohibitive, look for a therapist who offers a sliding scale fee (this means the cost will be based on your income or other financial factors). There are also many low-cost mental health apps and free mental health services available. Keep in mind that it may take time to find the right therapist for you.
2. Write in a Journal
Writing out your thoughts can be a healthy way to process difficult situations and emotions. A journal is a safe space to express even the most uncomfortable feelings without engaging another person. In one study, journaling every day was shown to help decrease feelings of depression, anxiety and hostility.
3. Start a Meditation Practice
A regular meditation or mindfulness practice can help you notice and experience your emotions, allowing you the space and grace to process them without reacting. Research shows that mindfulness meditations can have a positive effect on emotion processing and psychological well-being.
4. Try Trauma-Informed Yoga
In trauma-informed yoga (TIY) the teacher does not call out direct poses or instruction, and instead offers suggestions and invitational language. While practicing any style of yoga or movement can be helpful for emotional regulation, a TIY class ensures that your instructor will guide you towards calming your nervous system and help you avoid triggering movements or prompts. Do a web search of “trauma-informed yoga” to find local or virtual classes.
5. Practice Open Communication
If you do find yourself wanting to share your emotions with friends and loved ones, consider how to make it an exercise that supports you both. Ask yourself how your sharing will impact your counterpart, and consult with them as to whether they have the energy and bandwidth to listen. You can also set a time limit or agree to only work through one topic at a time.
Become a Life Coach
Want to learn more about how emotions can impact your health and relationships? Join HCI’s Become a Health & Life Coach program to learn about health and holistic wellness. For those looking to make a career shift, you can begin coaching in as little as six months. If you’re already a coach and want to advance your skills, check out HCI’s Coach Mastery program. Feel free to get in touch with one of our clarity coaches directly by calling 1-800-303-2399.