Big T vs. Little t Trauma, The Second Article in Our Series on Trauma Today

Gail Johnson

More Than the Mind and Body Can Bear. Trauma is just that—more than mind and body can bear without causing disruption of our lives.  We have finally come to recognize the trauma of our returning veterans, survivors of natural disasters, crashes, domestic violence, deaths of loved ones and friends.  These large shocks to the human mind-body system are BIG SHOCKS—Big “T” Traumas.

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What has not been adequately addressed is the accumulation of   “small t”  traumas.  You  may have even experienced a week that included:

  • Reassignment at work
  • A recent move
  • Starting back to school
  • Disagreements with significant others or children
  • Having or adopting a new child
  • A traffic ticket
  • A vacation
  • The holidays

Or even “littler” things:

  • Your debit card won’t swipe
  • You can’t find your keys
  • You didn’t get enough sleep
  • The power went off
  • You are stuck in traffic

All these are sneakier, small “t”   traumas:  “little” things that pile up into BIG heaps when there is no time or means of processing them.

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So how much is too much?  The answer is:  it’s all relative.  Your personal capacity, the time of the year or month, amount of help that is forthcoming, time span between events, all can contribute to a pileup of stress that can turn “little t trauma” into a bigger stressor than a single BIG T trauma.

How does trauma finally get our attention?

Maybe you have already figured it out:  your BODY keeps the score. We even have figurative language that bears this out—that job (or boss) is a real “pain in the neck”  “my heart aches” “I feel it in my gut”

What to do? Both BIG  T and small t trauma deserve our attention.  That is how they are resolved.  We ignore this imbalance in our lives at a cost to our health and well-being, especially when their effects don’t disappear. Both kinds are treatable, even when the trauma happened a long time ago or just yesterday.  Mind and body deserve a break – treat them well.

 

 

Gail G. Johnson, MSW, LMSW, ACSW

Gail Johnson

 

“Compassionate Acceptance with Choices for Change” Gail’s 20 years of experience in mental health have led her to look deeply into the mind-body connection. She has learned that mind and body continually influence one another. Focus on the body’s clues and life’s experience leads to understanding and the opportunity to make healthy choices. Gail has a masters degree in social work, is a member of NASW, and is certified by the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She currently practices at the Fountain Hill Center. learn more…