I’m currently working on a book called Healing the Artist Within for Dover and a related class on healing trauma. I would love to have your contributions to the book and to the class.
You can help me (and others) by taking the below Trauma Questionnaire. Just copy out the questions and send the questions and your answers along to me at email@example.com.
You may discover that answering these questions helps you better understand your experiences and helps you heal. On the other hand, these questions may prove distressing or “triggering.” Please be aware of how the questions are affecting you and please be mindful of your safety and emotional health.
Answer all of the questions or just those that pertain to you or that interest you. Write as little or as much as you like. By providing me with your answers you understand that I may use what you’ve written in the book or class I mentioned above. Just let me know how you’d like to be identified: real first name and last initial or made-up first name and last initial.
“Trauma” is defined as a “deeply distressing or disturbing experience.” Many mental health professionals assert that the experience must fall into a certain category (like wartime experience) in order to qualify as traumatic. That belief must amount to a prejudice, since who is to say that killing the enemy is a more deeply distressing experience than, say, being humiliated by one or both of your parents?
Since trauma is a subjective experience, if you feel that a given experience was deeply distressing or disturbing, and especially if you can tell that the experience has had long-lasting consequences, then that experience was traumatic. Even an objectively “small event” may have been traumatizing, if that was the way you experienced it.
In keeping with this broader view of trauma, that any experience that was deeply distressing or disturbing to you and that produced long-lasting negative consequences ought to be considered traumatic, can you describe some of the traumas you’ve experienced? The more detail you provide, the more that helps my research (and my readers). This, then, is question 1:
1. In what ways have you been traumatized?
2. Bring to mind one particular traumatic event. Do you think that you experienced the event as traumatic because you are especially sensitive, because you had become vulnerable to trauma because of previous traumas, or do you think that “anyone” would have experienced it as traumatic?
3. Do you have any insight into why you experienced the event as traumatic? For some events, like rape, the “reasons” are obvious. But if the event was objectively “small” or an event that others experienced without suffering long-term negative consequences, do you have a sense of why you “succumbed” to trauma in this particular instance?
4. If you can tell, what have been the long-term negative consequences of your experiences of trauma?
5. A distinction is generally made between the “symptoms” of “post-traumatic stress disorder” (like nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, troubles concentrating, exaggerated startle response, etc.), outcomes that look clearly and directly linked to the traumatic experience, and consequences like low self-esteem, lifelong despair, or anomalous experiences like hearing voices, which have a less direct-line path back to the trauma but which may nevertheless be intimately linked. Playing around with this distinction between “clear consequences of trauma” (like nightmares) and “possible consequences of trauma” (like lifelong despair), which consequences feel clearly related and which feel less clearly related to your experiences of trauma?
6. Has your experience of trauma made it harder for you to “keep meaning afloat” in your life?
7. Has your experience of trauma made it harder for you to keep despair at bay?
8. Has your experience of trauma made it harder for you to live your life purposes?
9. Do you connect your experiences of trauma with any chronic physical complaints?
10. If you’ve received a mental disorder diagnosis (like clinical depression), do you believe that your traumatic experiences contributed to or caused that distress?
11. Have you tried some things to deal with or heal the trauma that haven’t proved particularly successful?
12. What, if anything, has proven at least somewhat helpful?
13. Has anything proven really helpful?
14. Have you had any experiences with what’s called “trauma-informed care?”
15. Given what you know about yourself and about the experience of trauma, what sorts of experiences might be likely to traumatize you again?
16. Anything that I haven’t asked that you’d like to cover?
17. How has trauma positively and/or negatively affected your ability to create?
18. How has trauma positively and/or negatively affected your subject matter choices?
19. How has trauma positively and/or negatively affected your ability to lead the creative life?
20. Is there some way in which creating or performing heals the trauma for you? How would you describe the relationship between your need to create or perform and your experience of trauma?
21. If you hadn’t been traumatized, would you be the “same” creative person you are today, “another” sort of creative person, or “not creative” at all?
22. If you’ve managed to do some healing, has that affected your creative output?
23. If you’ve managed to do some healing, has that affected your creative choices, including your subject matter choices?
24. If you encountered a book on “art and trauma,” what would you expect and/or hope to find included?
25. Anything that you’d like to add?
Thank you for your answers! Please send them along to me at firstname.lastname@example.org