Using TV to further trauma discussions

Over the past couple of years, trauma has been a common theme in characters and storylines in television shows or movies. The prevalence of these topics can help to further the conversation surrounding trauma and healing, when done well. We recently polled our Facebook audience to get a feel for what TV shows they had seen recently that illustrated trauma accurately.

Here are some of the insights:

  • The Killing: a show about two detectives who are deeply affected by the murders they investigate.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale: based in a dystopian future wherein a totalitarian society subjects fertile women, called “Handmaids”, into child-bearing servitude.
  • Mad Men: though the show is set in the 1960s and surrounds a main character in advertising, this Facebook fan was specifically referencing the show’s flashbacks to Don Draper’s childhood trauma.
  • Jessica Jones: haunted by a traumatic past, Jessica Jones uses her skills to find her tormenter in this Netflix series.
  • Game of Thrones: chances are, you’ve either seen this show or heard about it. There are multiple characters and storylines throughout the series, as well as multiple layers of trauma.
  • Big Little Lies: fractured relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, and friends and neighbors, the stories of three mothers of first-graders whose seemingly perfect lives begin to unravel to the point of murder, fueled by domestic violence.

Being able to personally reflect on a television show you’re watching can open up a lot of opportunities, so here are some things to think about when watching shows for therapeutic or growth purposes:

  • Be mindful of your emotions: notice if you have any strong emotions, positive or negative, about certain characters in the show. Is there a character that really bothers you? Is there a character you’d like to be more like? Be mindful of your emotions, and write them down and the context in which you are feeling them.
  • Be aware of your triggers: if at any point in the show you feel a strong sense of anger or sadness, write it down, along with a description of what is happening during that point in time in the show or series. Reflecting on this afterwards will help bring you a sense of clarity on what is triggering you, and this can be an especially powerful tool for reflection with a therapist as well.
  • Be kind to yourself: it is completely okay to take a break if your emotions get the best of you when watching an intense show that spurs your PTSD symptoms. Be aware of what you are feeling, and take care of yourself above all else.
  • Benefits of groups: there can be amazing therapeutic benefits to watching shows about trauma with friends or in groups, mainly the opportunity to reflect as a group after the show. Creating dialogue and getting other people’s perspectives can be powerful and helps gain some insight into the “other side of the story” or how certain themes affect other people differently.


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