The trauma of the everyday | Joanna Kavenna, Ian Parker, Sarah Garfinkel, Mark Salter

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Have mundane setbacks become catastrophic? Our experts discuss.

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Trauma was traditionally associated with events such as war, assault and natural disasters. Now it is increasingly used to describe everyday experiences like personal criticism or romantic rejection, and of becoming an empty therapeutic buzzword. Some psychologists argue that we risk undermining diagnoses of serious disorders by treating the mundane as the catastrophic, at the same time as making us less resilient.

Should we stop describing everyday setbacks as trauma? Or is a looser understanding of trauma to be encouraged so that individuals can come to terms with their suffering? Or is this all a symptom of a broader cultural focus on our emotional lives which once promised better mental health, but which has now turned out to have undermined an entire generation?

Neuroscientist Sarah Garfinkel, bestselling author of Zed Joanna Kavenna and fearless psychoanalyst Ian Parker explore modern trauma and what we can do about it.

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