Big T Trauma vs Little t Trauma 

Even though many years have passed, I can still remember the moment that I was finally given the permission that I needed to begin my healing. I was sitting on the couch of my new therapist’s office and I was giving her the usual rundown of my life. I gave her the family history, childhood experiences, and my career and life transitions up to that point.

She sat quietly and listened and then when I was finished she asked me simply. “ What work have you done to address your trauma?” I became uneasy, I replied, “ I am not sure I would go so far as to say that I suffered from trauma”. At that moment I knew I had suffered some abuse, but the word trauma seemed so much bigger. The word trauma seemed so severe, extreme, and beyond what I felt I had a right to call what I experienced. I have since healed so many wounds and have revealed hidden experiences that I know without a doubt was trauma. But in that moment even with all of the abuses I experienced, I still did not feel worthy of the term trauma.

Isn’t that kind of a nutty idea, to feel like you need to be worthy of a word? In my mind, up until that point, I equated trauma with things like extreme child abuse, domestic violence, rape, murder, being robbed, and post-traumatic stress from combat experiences. I still did not connect my own experiences with the definition of trauma.

This is not an uncommon response from people when I bring up the word trauma these days. My clients and peers will discount their wounding as being trauma. They do not feel like what happened to them was big enough to garner that word as a description of what they have been through. I have spent so much time lately educating people about the many types of trauma and how they impact our lives, our money, and our business.

So let me break it down for you. There are two main classifications of trauma commonly called Little t and Big T traumas.

Big T traumas are events most commonly connected with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These are often shocking, unpredicted events that have caused physical and emotional harm. Natural disaster, Violence, Death, and other Crisis situations. Witnessing a Big T trauma can also cause PTSD. These Big T traumas are what most people equate to when you bring up the word trauma, so it makes sense that many people would not know that they have experienced trauma.

Little t traumas are highly distressing experiences that do not fall into the Big T trauma definition. These are often repetitive, and ongoing and the experience may or may not create a traumatic response for every person. When confronted with Little t trauma support networks, resilience and coping skills can play a huge part in their impact on our lives long term.

Examples of Little t traumas that I see most with my clients:

  1. Bullying in school
  2. Not fitting in and having a peer group in school to belong to
  3. Undiagnosed and unsupported learning disabilities
  4. The use of consistent physical punishment in the home
  5. Emotional neglect
  6. Codependency
  7. Having divorced parents, being divorced
  8. Moving around a lot
  9. Being a caregiver at a young age
  10. Chronic illness

Do you see what I mean by these events? They are chronic, consistent, impactful, and can create wounds that impact thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. These thoughts, feelings, and behaviors inform our lives and choices as adults.

It is my assertion that sometimes Little t traumas are more impactful and difficult to overcome without the support of a trained professional. We are also less likely to identify them which leads to them remaining untreated for longer periods of time.

I am an LCSW and a therapist and even with my training and education, I have been on a journey of learning more about how Little t Traumas impact daily life. In my work as a business therapist and mindset coach, I have consistently uncovered the impact of Little t Trauma on my client’s relationships with their money and their business. I am committed to learning more about their trauma history so we can create healing and mastery so that they don’t recreate their trauma in their business.

I know what it is like to have someone suggest that your experiences may have been more serious and life-altering than you thought. I know what it is like to embrace and heal from those experiences once they are given the attention that they deserve. I am adamant that my clients know that there is no shame in discovering their own trauma, in fact, it is often the launchpad for freedom that they never knew was possible. It is a beautiful thing.

Are you curious about how trauma may be impacting your own business? You can download my Trauma & Entrepreneurship Assessment here.

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