By Lynn Cadet

Did you know there are distinctions between trauma? Yes, all trauma is not the same. There are two types: Big T and little t. But that doesn’t mean one kind is more detrimental than the other. Some people may associate little “t” trauma with lower severity because of its name or the level of the situation. But really, little “t” trauma can cause as much damage to someone’s emotional and mental health as an awful calamity that causes disorders like PTSD

When considering trauma, we might think of catastrophic, isolated events, like experiencing a deadly war, a crushing accident, or a natural disaster. However, many of us overlook the smaller life changes that also cause emotional harm and don’t recognise them as trauma. Big T trauma is real, but little t trauma can be just as scary. Let’s uncover the meaning of little t trauma to discover ways to cope when it hits home. 

Little “t” Trauma vs Big T Trauma

So what exactly is it? 

Like its big brother, it leaves the victim suffering from feelings of powerlessness and can lead to internalised shame. Repeated exposure to little t trauma can cause lasting emotional damage and even be worse than a singular exposure to the Big T.

Since it often tends to be associated with relational troubles, events such as emotional abuse, divorce, prolonged financial stress tend to fall under it. While issues like sexual assault, serious injury, and life-threatening events can cause the manifestation of the type of trauma that comes with a capital T. Its because the little t kind may not be quite as obvious or scarring as the other type, that it becomes more difficult to define for most people. 

Because many of us don’t realise its effects, we often ignore our need for healing. We go on in life dragging this baggage without taking the time to address it, hampering ourselves subconsciously. If we don’t validate it, it can affect our relationships, mindsets, and our ability to move on freely into new stages of our lives. 

The first step is to acknowledge the stressor and the patterns that could be stemming from it. Trauma can manifest in several ways. From losing your temper easily to obsessive-compulsive disorders—these could all be signs that something deeper may be bothering you. For example, if you experience a bad breakup and swear off relationships for good, this is not productive or going to make you happy in the long run. It may take a lot of self-reflection and some time to heal, but it’s worth it to move on for the better life that awaits you. 

How To Cope With Little “t” Trauma

Once you have identified the stressor, finding beneficial coping methods will help you push past the wounds. Leaving it unaddressed can cause residual harm. There are several options to help you tackle the grip trauma has on your life, giving you more freedom. 

Studies indicate that people who experience trauma are at a higher risk of developing an addiction or substance abuse as part of their coping mechanism. Our brains take more time than our bodies to recover after a traumatic event because it remains in a hyper-vigilant state to protect us from experiencing the event again. Staying in this state can lead to depression, anxiety, avoidance, nightmares, fatigue, and even suicide. Through treatment and other healing methods, we can move past the trauma.

Here are a few methods to consider when dealing with this feeling of powerlessness:

  • EMDR Therapy, also known as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, is designed to help patients work through traumatic memories. The purpose is to help the brain reprocess those painful memories while focusing on an outside sensation. With your eyes closed, you tap on your shoulders while recounting the trauma. This therapy recently made headlines when Prince Harry revealed his use of it to ease his mental health. He demonstrated the technique on “The Me You Can’t See” docu-series. 
  • Develop a comforting routine that helps you address your trauma and ease the pain that stems from it. To enter a better mindset, you should focus on self-compassion and self-care practices to achieve moments of peace. By making it a consistent routine, you can find a form of release for your traumatic memories. 
  • Talk to a therapist. If your trauma feels debilitating, you should seek professional help. They can help you find methods to manage the stress linked to it. With treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy, you can learn how to retrain your brain and let go of negative beliefs. Don’t let your trauma run your life any longer. 

As you apply these methods, you can grow more resilient and fight your trauma symptoms. And remember, Big T or little t, they all mean trouble for your wellbeing. Trauma doesn’t have to be a silent battle. You can always speak to someone. Don’t suffer in silence.