More than 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, car crashes, domestic violence, and deaths of loved ones and friends. These large shocks to the human mind-body system are BIG SHOCKS: “Big T” Traumas.

What we haven’t yet adequately recognized and learned how to address is “small t” traumas. “Small t” traumas are smaller events that cause stress to our mind-body systems but which we may not think of as traumatic.

Fraying rope

What are “little t” traumas?

For instance, you may have 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 of these can be sneakier, “little t” traumas: “little” things that pile up into BIG heaps when there is no time or means of processing them.

So how much is too much?

In need of a break

The answer is: it’s all relative. Your personal capacity, the time of the year or month, amount of help that is forthcoming, and span of time between events all factor in to how traumatic we experience our “little t” traumas to be. Taken by themselves, most of us can weather one or two—or even a few—“little t” traumas without outside help.

But if a bunch of “little t” traumas occur at once, or we don’t take the time to process each one as it happens, “little t” traumas can pile up into a bigger stressor than a single BIG T trauma!

How does trauma finally get our attention?

Maybe you’ve 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 with both “big T” and “little t” trauma

Both “Big T” and “little t” traumas 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, whether 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 master’s degree in social work, is a member of NASW, and is certified by the Academy of Certified Social Workers. learn more…