It is normal and even healthy to vent to friends about something your partner does that upsets you, but when taken to the extreme it is called trauma dumping. When you overshare traumas with someone repeatedly it can harm your relationship with that person and sometimes qualify as emotional infidelity if it’s about your spouse. When someone speaks at length about stressors or a painful experience the listener can also be negatively impacted.
Trauma Dumping Signs
Recognizing trauma dumping behavior is important if you want to avoid harming romantic relationships, but it can also be detrimental in communication with family, friends, work colleagues, and others. Simply oversharing too many details alone does not constitute this harmful, toxic behavior. Trauma dumping is often a long-winded, one-sided rant that occurs at length, uninterrupted, and repeatedly. It can also occur between people whose relationship is not a close bond, and in places that are not appropriate for this abusive monologue to take place.
When the conversation is one-sided and either you or the other person speak at length about a painful or traumatic experience to the point where the other party is scanning the room for an exit it is likely trauma dumping.
Often people who trauma dump are desperate to get their feelings out at the expense of the listener and do not stop talking long enough for the listener to speak.
Another sign that it is trauma dumping instead of simply venting is when the monologue occurs between people who are not close like at work or with someone you barely know. When it occurs in-person the unwilling listener is likely to display social cues they speaker should recognize as uncomfortable with the situation, but sometimes the speaker is so wrapped up in the details they are communicating that they are blind to obvious cues.
Sadfishing: Trauma Dumping On Social Media
People who sadfish typically have low self-esteem and publish toxic trauma dumping posts to manipulate their followers into giving them attention and/or sympathy. This narcissistic behavior may stem from unprocessed childhood neglect.
Sometimes a post that looks like a sadfish might be a legitimate cry for help, so if in doubt be sure to reach out to the person personally off-line to make sure.
Trauma dumping also occurs on social media and other online platforms with user generated content. Posting toxic, long-winded social media posts to fish for attention and sympathy are called sadfishing.
Dumping trauma often involves extremely descriptive accounts that trigger an emotional response and can force the listener to experience the trauma personally, especially if they are an empathic person. Many times the person on the receiving end of this toxic monologue can go into fight or flight mode. If two people are communicating back and forth casually and one happens to mention something casually that involves a hurtful experience it is not trauma dumping. That is simply healthy conversation.
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Examples of Trauma Dumping
- A friend who always treats you like you are their therapist and speaks at great length and in too much detail about painful experiences.
- A work colleague that comes to your desk often complaining about their home life or marriage.
- Long social media posts ranting about a traumatic experience using inflammatory language to evoke an emotional response and/or encouraging people to respond with sympathetic comments.
Trauma Dumping Causes
People who trauma dump lack healthy coping skills needed to process and work through negative personal experiences. If you believe someone is oversharing ensure you set clear boundaries before it escalates into toxic trauma dumping. A person who exhibits this behavior is also likely not practicing the emotional self-care needed or seeking the help of a therapist so they can work to improve their coping skills.
Often people who trauma dump are desperate to get their feelings out at the expense of the listener.
Trauma Dumping in Marriage
When one partner “dumps” their trauma on their spouse it can have damaging effects on the receiver emotionally and wear away the trust in a relationship.
Trauma dumping is a manipulative behavior. When a husband or wife engages in this toxic behavior toward their spouse it is incredibly unhealthy and should be recognized and stopped immediately. Repeatedly having to endure your spouse’s traumatic experiences in painful detail tricks you into feeling sorry for them and may have long-lasting emotional implications. If you think your husband or wife is dumping trauma on you the first thing you need to do is set clear boundaries.
Tell them how uncomfortable and upset it makes so that you do not become resentful over time. Let them know that you are more than happy to speak to discuss their feelings and experiences in a mutual dialogue, but outline which boundaries they are crossing for you.
Recurring trauma dumping continually projects negative emotions and feelings onto your spouse, causing painful emotional responses that can ruin your marriage. Consider finding a licensed therapist who can help you improve your coping and emotional processing skills.
Overcoming Trauma Dumping
The best way to improve your self-coping is to speak with a therapist who can help you work through the trauma you experienced. A therapist can help you learn tools, strategies, and techniques that can help you process and move forward when you are overcome with a painful memory or feeling.
Instead of internalizing your trauma or transferring it to your partner you need to learn how to learn how to cope in a healthy way. Examples that can help included journaling, meditation, crafting, drawing, or joining a support group specific to the trauma you experienced. Starting a new routine that includes any of these mindful practices is a great start on your journey toward healthy coping skills.
Are you dumping trauma on your partner or do you think you may be a victim of trauma dumping? Contact The Marriage Restoration Project for help by using the form below or book a free 30 minute consultation call with Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin here.