Trauma dumping undermines friendship

Constantly inundating our friends with our own problems forges one-sided relationships.

The concept of friendship seems to be both broadening and eroding every day. The newest development in its progressive decay is the advent of trauma dumping, where a person finds a friend and, as the name suggests, dumps every current problem in their life on them with no remorse.

The term “trauma dumping” usually denotes an inappropriate disclosure of personal issues that implicitly demands comfort or another form of reciprocation. It is a narcissistic twist on the “foul weather friend,” where instead of seeking out the company of the downtrodden, the trauma dumper opts to keep others in their own bad company. Trauma dumping also involves an unhealthy fixation on suffering, and the act of repeatedly sharing personal problems so freely establishes an addiction to it that can only be fed by having more people observe it. In this way trauma dumping creates an obsession on being increasingly and inappropriately personal in a callous way.

This callousness is not simply a rude insertion of an off-topic rant in normal conversation. It instead undermines the basic expectation of friends to listen to each other. It is a very common leadership technique to listen to what others say and respond to that rather than just going on personal monologues. But this advice applies doubly so for truly personal relationships, where care is implied at the deepest level. The narcissism of trauma dumping is about the uneven approach to friendship that the dumper takes. Instead of working through their problems or asking for a way out of them, the trauma dumper is content in talking about the same things over and over again, with no regard for any development their friends may have or want. Their friendship is one among strangers, not unlike an online personality that is forced to interact with their fans in real life.

While there is nothing wrong with friends venting to each other, the reliance on friends to double as therapists is a sign that friendships are becoming more utilitarian in nature. The friend is no longer a person who one can be “in this together” with, but rather someone that must observe and react to whatever is presented to them. This kind of friendship is much akin to a mirror, where the friend serves to reflect and either confirm what is already evident or disabuse one of false notions concerning their problems. It is friendship as a reality check, where reciprocity is limited to mutual assistance in becoming sane. The ultimate goal of trauma dumping differs from that of venting, which is simply offering to connect two people through their common issues. Trauma dumping is the forceful projection of a person’s entire life on another. The “trauma” is not processed through a conversation that would involve the input of two, but rather the presentation of one person’s experience to another, with a single request for assistance. It amounts to violence, with the forceful intimacy it provides being an invitation for a service that must be undertaken in the name of friendship. Through trauma dumping and its implications we can find the continued deterioration of friendship and its reconstruction as a vehicle for social advancement.

By Jason Wu, Online editor-in-chief
Photo by Creative Commons