There are many definitions of trauma, in general, I like this one;
When a person has experienced feelings of intense helplessness, fear, or horror.
Typically, when we first think of trauma, we think of situations I define as Big T events, however an accumulation of smaller “everyday” or less pronounced events can still be traumatic, and I refer to these as small t traumas. Not because they are less damaging to the soul, but because they are often less dramatic.
Large ‘T’ Trauma.
As you might expect, a large-T trauma is an extraordinary and significant event that leaves the individual feeling powerless and possessing little control in their environment. These are easy to recognize, they are things such as a natural disaster, terrorist attack, sexual assault, combat/war zone, car or plane accident, etc. Helplessness, fear and horror are key factors of large ‘T’ traumas. Large ‘T’ traumas are typically easily identified by the experiencer, as well as those who have any familiarity with their plight.
Small ‘t’ Trauma.
Small ‘t’ traumas are events that exceed our capacity to cope and cause a disruption in emotional functioning. These distressing events are not inherently life or integrity threatening, but they can leave the individual feeling notably helplessness, fearful or even horrified. Some examples of small ‘t’ traumas include:
Conflict with significant others or children
Conflict with supervisor/boss or colleagues
Abrupt or extended relocation/move
Planning a wedding
Starting a new job
Having or adopting a child
Financial worries or difficulty
Expensive and unplanned home repairs
Experiences we view as common can often be overlooked as traumatic. We tell ourselves we are just being overly dramatic, or perhaps even feel shame that we are in such distress.
However, distress is distress, and recognizing that there might be some trauma related to the distress is the first step to feeling better. Getting the right kind of treatment is the second step. And I have a lot to say about that. In my next reflection, I will discuss EMDR, and why, according to the research, it is the best trauma treatment available today.
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” – Helen Keller