Traumatic Stress lives within the psychological framework of cultural realities and in the person’s internalizations and intrapsychic representations of those realities. That means that culture and the way culture has been internalized inside us will frame the meaning of a traumatic event. We will extract meaning of an event that can be shaped by our the messages we have heard about ourselves from our larger community context. For example, there are implicit meanings we extract about ourselves from our family, community, and large institutions. For decades psychologists defined measures of masculinity and measures of femininity as measures of mental health.
Culture has always effected and shaped our gendered experiences. These experiences influence our responses to traumatic stress. All of us come to identify ourselves as gendered beings and those self-identifications shape how we will see ourselves in a traumatic event.
It is very important that therapists are culturally competent in order to address the individual person’s experience of a Traumatic Stress. Cultural constructions play a large role in perception of individual gendered awareness and behavior.
Men and Trauma
Dr. Mike Dadson comments:
“There are predictable identity associations for men who are raised in a “ traditionally masculine culture”(having qualities that are associated with a masculine such as, independence, bravery and strength as well as limited emotional expression) they are affected by trauma through that lens of experience.”
Other common characteristics that effect men’s responses to trauma include, high need for independence and avoidance of help seeking, limited emotional expression, avoidance of experiences of perceived weakness, utilitarian approaches to relationships as well as conscious and unconscious fears of de-masculinization.
Women and Trauma
Michael Dadson reports:
Women and feminine culture experiences can be very different than that of men” identifies Dr. Mike Dadson. Further, in many feminine environments, “in contrast to men, women have inherently experienced frequent feelings of powerlessness and terror living under the subjugation and oppression of patriarchal systems” adds Dr. Dadson.
In the world of women, due to shared social constructs, many of the experiences of traumatic stress are shared, understood and talked about. It may still leave with them the overwhelmed with shattered narratives and overwhelming powerlessness and horror. As a result, women may be able to talk about the range of traumatic experiences more freely with each other and in other social settings. The shattered sense of self for women may alienate them from their empowered self.
What women often have difficulty with is the rage that can come as a result of the overwhelming powerlessness and the horror that they experience with trauma. When a women expresses rage and anger they can get labeled as power hungry, they wear the pants in the family, or they are just a “bitch”. Women may struggle to find legitimate uses of anger and direct that to retaking their personal boundaries. Expressing anger is about re-establishing safety and lowing the psychological defenses. Supporting and reaffirming functional responses and reactions of rage and anger may help the defence reaction resolve.