Stacked Trauma

Most traumas aren’t simple; they involve many levels and types of experiences.

Gail Johnson calls this “stacked trauma” and has this advice for sorting through trauma and discovering balance in the aftermath of trauma: 


When it comes to stacked trauma, it helps to think visually:

Visual: Stacked Trauma as Wooden Pallets

Ever see a server carrying a tray with too many plates and utensils on it?

How about a birthday cake stacked a little too high?

A human pyramid?

Well now, let’s put this in perspective regarding mental wellness and health: 

  • What happened? Was it spectacular? Was it impressive? Was anyone hurt?
  • Is your “tray” of negative experiences full to overflowing?
  • Is your “birthday cake” of anger or sadness starting to slide downhill?
  • What about your “human pyramid” of unhelpful or harmful people?

It may be interesting to note that you’ve been able to withstand a plethora of negative experiences without crashing. But you may also feel that you are at the tipping point, ready to come down like a house of cards. We humans tend to believe that if we only suck it up or “move forward” or push it down (whatever IT is), we can withstand unlimited pressure. (Think about the garbage dump in the first Star Wars movie.)

Um, no, we are not infinitely able to withstand heavy burdens and pressures. There is always a breaking point.

Various therapies can help with stacked trauma

Mind/Body Therapy is an opportunity to lay down each of the pieces of the dining tray, the birthday cake, the cheerleading pyramid—one at a time, or sometimes bundled. Make no mistake, it IS work. But if you persist, you can prevail. Methods such as EMDR, Energy Tapping, Yoga, Acupuncture, Massage, and Hypnosis have the potential to be very effective in unstacking trauma.