Today we continue the trauma metaphor breakdown series about Raven from Teen Titans with an episode from the second season of the show. That episode is called Fear Itself, and was the 5th episode in that season.
After a short fight with a TV-themed villain, the Titans watch a horror movie together. After that, the others talk about how scared they were. Raven says she does not get scared. Later that same night, monsters start attacking the team in their home/tower, taking the titans one by one. It’s only after Raven is alone that she learns 2 important lessons: that she is scared, but that she can fight anyway.
I really like how this episode shows the other Titans processing their fear in a social context. They talk about it, share it, and get validation from each other. This causes them to process (or physically digest) that fear without any sort of problems or issues. The emotion is dealt with, and they move on.
This is how health emotion regulation works: you feel an emotion, you acknowledge that emotion, and once it has been processed, the emotion goes away.
But Raven doesn’t even realize that she is scared. She can’t face it, so she pushes it down without even realizing she is doing so. Being unaware of one’s own emotions is very common in people who are traumatized.
Trauma is designed to cause physical sensations that no human can tolerate. Because that is the entire point of a trauma response: to ensure it doesn’t get ignored.
But people who are deeply traumatized from a young age have these sensations almost constantly for years. Many of these people “solve” this by learning to ignore their own body. I did. For most of my life, I didn’t even realize emotions had a physical aspect because, like many other abuse victims, I was disconnected from my body. Restoring this connection is still a WIP, but I’m at least aware that I have a disconnect at this point. I still struggle with
People are very familiar with the idea of a person who stuffs down (or bottles up) their feelings can have said feelings blow up in a large sudden way. I really like how this episode goes the opposite way: when the emotions leak out slowly, bit by bit.
How not being aware of or denying having any given emotion doesn’t make that feeling go away. Instead it can make them come out in something that you aren’t even aware of.
Not Just Fear
About the only thing I don’t like about this episode is how it only discusses fear. Though how it would have brought up other emotions, I’m not sure. So I wouldn’t call that a criticism of the episode.
In the culture I was raised in, there’s this idea that courage is acting despite fear (and not the lack of fear). And what is encouraged is acting as though you don’t feel the fear. At least when it comes to trauma, this advance is sorely lacking at best and the source of a lot of problems at worse.
The first major hole is that this concept of not acting on an emotion applies to all of them, not only fear.
But the more important part missing from this cultural idea is that the first step is not modifying your behavior. The first step is to acknowledge that the fear/emotion is there. To realize that you feel it. Though, maybe for some people this is so automatic that they do not consider it a step. Because said people don’t have years of trauma causing this disconnect or a form of disassociation.
This is what Raven did, and that denial caused problems. Though, I don’t think it was conscious denial. I don’t think she was purposely lying or “trying to put on a brave face” or something to that effect. One of my bigger challenges has been trying to tell others not only when something is wrong, but what is actually wrong. Often times I just say “I’m upset” because even I don’t know which emotion I’m feeling. And it’s taken a lot work just to get to the point where I even realize something is wrong. This is especially true with stress; I got so used to just rushing through anyway that I couldn’t even tell I was upset.
It’s a very strange state to be in, and I like how this episode does such a good job of showing some of what it’s like.
This week I’m sharing another of my old music video edits. It’s bit “meh” for about the first half then gets bit better. Certainly not my best work. It doesn’t use that much of this episode. It actually uses clips from Nevermore to represent Raven’s internal state, and the video revolves around the fear of losing control to emotions such as anger (the “darkness” as the lyrics put it). This is another thing I’ve struggled with for years due to trauma: severely unregulated emotions (though I have made some progress in the past two years or so).