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A Movie Starring Lupita Nyong’o - "Us"

Emotional Trauma

Updated 04-Oct-2020 - First Published 02-May-2019 by Debi Douglas

I went to watch the movie "Us" starring actress Lupita Nyong'o. This movie ignited my interest because Lupita shared on The View that one of the characters she played had a neurological disorder, called spasmodic dysphonia.

According to Lupita, the spasmodic dysphonia that her character endured, was triggered by physical and emotional trauma.

To make it more interesting, I called my friends who are also therapists. And so, we were off to the movies.

Going to see the movie "Us"

Kemoy, me and Fran at the movie "Us"

When I heard her mention the words emotional trauma, as a mental health counselor, it sparked an immediate desire to see the movie. I was curious to identify symptoms, behaviors and triggers that may have been associated with her specific experiences. 

Watch the trailer to get a taste of the action

I watched the movie intently, not missing a beat, nor the rhythmic sound of music that goes along with a psychological thriller.

Movie "US" poster with Debi
Debi your therapist - doing research at the movie "Us"

Despite this being a movie, the subject matter is serious. There are many people who suffer with their emotions. Similar situations to the one depicted in the movie, have resulted in long lasting adverse effects for such individuals.

Breaking Down Emotional Trauma

Emotions are ways to express how we feel about any particular situation, event or circumstances.

Trauma is the overpowering amount of stress or misfortune one has had to withstand after a devastating experience.

Although trauma can develop with just a single experience, multi series of trauma will make the impact even more relentless.

If trauma is overlooked or dismissed, it can sit in your psychological headspace and fester into a major disaster.

Trauma is interpreted as physically or emotionally harmful. It threatens an individual's functioning, impacting their physical, social, emotional and spiritual well-being.

You Have Probably Heard The Saying Being Used, Why Are You So Emotional?

Emotional trauma means our emotions have been particularly impacted by the effects of trauma. This results in emotional instability and distress. Whether through displaying uncontrollable emotions, or emotional numbness.

"Us" Is The Number One Movie In America

Why is "Us" the number one movie in America today? Could it be that many of us can relate to the emotional turmoil in our past or present lives? For example, did you know that neglect and psychological abuse amounts to emotional child abuse?

Let the statistics on childhood abuse and neglect speak for themselves. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported about one in seven children experienced child abuse, and/or neglect last year in the United States. They further stated this is likely to be an underestimated number.

Neglect and abuse singles a child out
1 in 7 children experienced neglect and/or abuse last year in the United States

There were many themes I could relate to in this movie, because I have witnessed them professionally. When working with clients who are victims of psychological abuse, it's always evidenced.

Pointers in the film that stood out to me were

  • childhood neglect
  • childhood curiosity that often times lead to unfortunate events
  • delayed trauma responses
  • separation from parents
  • dissociation (being physically present but mind is someplace else)
  • crippling past experiences that keep us stuck and prevent us from moving forward
  • efforts to avoid distressing memories, thoughts or feelings
  • being afraid of the dark
  • easily startled/frightened; uneasy
  • disconnected from intimate relationships
  • deflection
  • paranoia
  • flashbacks
  • fear
  • anxiety

'Us' was an effective demonstration. It clearly showed how childhood trauma can lead to trauma in adulthood.

In Some People, Symptoms May Be Delayed For Months Or Years

Minimal symptoms after a traumatic event, can present as a crisis later in life for some people. Someone who has survived childhood abuse can have a delayed response which may be triggered by something that happens to them as an adult.

Let's take one of the characters played by Lupita. Adelaide was triggered by returning to the scene of the trauma. Being reminded of tragic situations can leave us feeling terrified. Often times, replaying the ordeal over and over again in our minds.

Emotional Trauma Can Hold Us Back

Living through devastating experiences, can leave us stunted and without the ability to move forward and make confident life changes.

Red, the other character played by Lupita, didn't want to stay stuck. She didn't want to stay in a place she never intended to be.

Both girls experienced physical and emotional trauma.

Many individuals often don't recognize the significant effect of trauma in their lives. Either it's difficult to make connections between their traumatic histories and their presenting problems, or they avoid the topic altogether. Hence, being stuck, and staying stuck.

Freedom From Being Stuck And Staying Stuck

Red displayed many tactics to regain the life which was taken from her. She wanted to change her circumstances. Red was willing to take a chance, and she was prepared to learn how to adapt.

Trauma has a way of stealing our joy and our peace of mind. It cuts deep and wide.

Red used critical thinking, and problem solving techniques. Adelaide as a young girl, used self-soothing techniques such as whistling. Both Adelaide and Red used resilience skills.

With the right treatment for trauma-related incidents, individuals can live a normal and peaceful life.

Treating trauma is not a one size fits all. People's experiences are unique to the specific traumas faced, as well as surrounding circumstances before, during and after relating to the trauma.

Bear in mind as mentioned before, trauma can be a singular event, or multiple events.

If any of this applies to you, then do seek assistance.


Debi Douglas
Licensed Mental Health Counselor Florida
Qualified Supervisor

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