Fifty Shades of Trauma


SPOILER ALERT: This blog post will contain plot details about “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy.

Everywhere I go people are talking about “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The excitement over the book (now a movie) intrigued me, so I went ahead and read it. While many women felt this book was a form of fantasy, all I could see was the trauma.

We find out in the book that the character, Christian Grey, was abused as a young boy, neglected by a mother who was addicted to drugs and was controlled by a pimp. The pimp would beat and abuse this young boy. Christian was by her side when his mother died, neglected and starving for food. This is traumatic for a child to endure and experience so early in life, even for a fictional character.

In his adult life, he is very wealthy, gorgeous, and has only experienced BDSM relationships sexually, having never experienced being in love.

To be clear, in no way am I saying that all people who practice BDSM were abused, nor am I saying all people who experience early childhood trauma will end up in BDSM relationships. This post is an exercise in examining the fictional psychological history of a fictional character.

With that said, what intrigues me about this book is how this abused man treated the character Anastasia Steele, the supposed love of his life. He demonstrates power and control in this relationship. He would exhibit the following behavioral characteristics:

  • manipulative
  • controlling
  • possessive
  • jealous
  • angry outbursts
  • demanding
  • punishing with sex
  • uses sex to control
  • needed her to obey him

For example, Anastasia would send a text message, and if Christian didn’t like what she said in the text, he would immediately come to her office to express his anger. Another example would be how within 5 weeks of their relationship, he pressured her to marry him because he couldn’t handle it if she left him.

This character is out of touch with his emotions and unable to tolerate it when he feels out of control. From this place he needs more control and tries to exert that control over Anastasia in different ways:

  • tries to dominate her time
  • tries to control how she meets with her friends
  • wants her not to work (he even buys the company she works for to have more control over her work situation)
  • uses punishment through sex, which turns him on
  • manipulates situations to keep her “safe” without her knowing what is going on fully

Through this pattern of not being able to handle emotions and then having to take control, Christian also feels remorse and fear of being abandoned. Forgiveness always follows his abusive actions and the remorse helps the woman stay in the relationship.  These are characteristics similar to an abusive relationship.

We are told in the book that he has been in therapy for years.  The therapist reveals that Christian is emotionally a teenager in relationships and that Anastasia needs to be patient with him. He is highly sexual, needs immediate responses, texts all the time, and is highly emotional. On the one hand, there is a very successful businessman whose controlling nature works well for his business successes. On the other hand he is said to be a wounded teenager. There is a deep split in this man’s sense of self in how he operates in the world.

What I see is a traumatized character that experienced extreme abuse, neglect, and witnessed his mother’s death leading to PTSD symptoms.  These PTSD symptoms include:

  • nightmares
  • not sleeping a lot
  • angry outburts
  • hyper-vigilance about safety issues

These symptoms haunt him and impact his relationship with Anastasia

If Christian Grey were a real person, it would be interesting to see if EMDR Therapy could have helped him in his therapy to process his unresolved childhood traumas.

What I witness with many people who have suffered like Christian Grey is that their PTSD symptoms decrease or go away completely and that they feel more present in their current relationships. EMDR Therapy has helped millions of people around the world heal from PTSD.

If you have experienced trauma in your life, I would recommend seeking out a trained EMDR Therapist to help you heal and let go of the past, so that you can be more present in your current life. People say that after EMDR they feel more alive.

Visit our EMDR Therapy Resources page for more information on trauma and EMDR Therapy.


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