What is Trauma? Understanding it’s Types


We all have experienced trauma in our lives at one point or another. When we hear someone is facing trauma, we jump ahead and imagine “oh this person is experiencing trauma because of a car accident, a natural disaster, a medical emergency, a fire or the trauma inflicted by another person in the form of assault, abuse, combat, —or perhaps some daddy issues”

But that is the misconception. Trauma is not limited to occur only after a major crisis. A child made fun of every day by classmates can also experience trauma. Whatever the source, trauma leaves an imprint which when not healed could affect our day to day lives badly.

Trauma is a fact of life. However, it doesn’t has to a life sentence – Peter A. Levine

Understanding The trauma

Trauma is could be something and anything deeply disturbing which directly interferes with a person’s sense of control reducing our capacity of understanding reality. Trauma leaves the fingerprints on the victim which don’t fade away while the bruises do.

Classification of Trauma

Traumas are classified on the basis of various factors which could either be the type/category of trauma or be based on the period/time span of experiencing trauma. On the basis of type of trauma, they are categorized into Large ‘T’ trauma and Small ‘t’ trauma

Large ‘T’ Trauma

One major event is enough to inflict the large T trauma. These traumas are the experiences extraordinary enough to cause heavy-handed helplessness. Large T type traumas are caused by acts of sexual assault, terrorism, natural calamities, or even prolonged stressful situations like child abuse, domestic violence, neglect, bullying, and more. Helplessness is also a key factor of large ‘T’ traumas, and the extent of experienced vulnerability is way beyond that of a small‘t’ trauma. Large ‘T’ traumas are often identified soon by the person, as well as those who have any familiarity with their pain and plight.

These types of traumas are distressing and impossible to ignore. Since individuals are well aware of the triggers, Actions for the avoidance of the situations goes to a new level.

They may knowingly avoid phone calls from People, burn the belongings that remind them of the events or may store them in the attic, avoid crowded places. Their actions to minimize distress and reduce recurring memories of the traumatic event are energy-consuming, unlike passive avoidance that happens with small ‘t’ traumas. Longer the avoidance behaviors endure and Longer the healing takes time.

One large ‘T’ trauma is often enough to make an individual’s life upside down for a very long time if not treated on time.

Small ‘t’ trauma

Small ‘t’ traumas are caused by the events that are not physically threatening but are better-said ego threatening to make an individual feeling helpless. Helplessness further disrupts emotional functioning causing distress in day to day activities. Events might include; life stressors like legal battles, financial troubles, work stress; relationship events like an upsetting personal conflict, divorce, infidelity, or life changes like a new job or moving.

Small t traumas are often ignored or over-passed by the person who experiences them because what an individual tries to tell themselves is that it is a common thing to happen to be everybody. The reactions are minimized because of the fear that people might shame them by calling it an overreaction or “just being dramatic”. Hence the vicious cycle of avoidance begins.

What surprising is those small ‘t’ traumas are often overlooked by the therapist too. Not because of the lack of empathy but because of them not knowing the importance of the experiences for a particular person

The important thing to know is that one small t trauma may not lead to much distress, but multiple small t traumas in a short period when accumulated are dangerous causing the upside-down havoc in emotional functioning.

It is likely that the reason many people in therapy are due to an accumulation of small ‘t’ traumas.

There are beliefs among people that trauma can’t be healed and stays with us throughout life. But that is not true. Scientists and psychologists say in full confidence that trauma could be healed 100 percent with proper treatment.

Have Faith in yourself

The paradox of trauma is that it has both the power to destroy and the power to transform and revive. Whatever the type of trauma the one is facing, there is always the sunshine outside. Healing is necessary. Healing through a trauma won’t erase the pain forever but it will help you to get past over the damage so it does no more control your lives


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