Big "T" Trauma verses Little "t" Trauma


Big "T" Trauma


By Big "T" Trauma I'm talking about the kind of trauma that we all think about when we think of what trauma is. Those major occurrences in life that most of us intuitively understand the concept of Big T traumatic events. These are the extraordinary events such as war, natural disasters, and being a victim of violence that lead to a wide range of symptoms associated with intense anxiety, depression and shock or numbness. I use the word extra-ordinary not just because these events a rare, for most of us at least, but because they are outside the range of our ordinary ability to cope and regulate our emotions.


Big T traumas are the ones that would be disturbing to anyone. People who have experienced these types of events often suffer with acute stress and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Big T trauma can involve a single event or a chronic, repetitive series of events, but they are the kind of events that common sense dictates would be hard to handle without some sort of emotional distress.


Some examples of Big "T" trauma are:


  • War

  • Disasters

  • Rape

  • Childhood sexual or physical abuse

  • Car wrecks

  • Crime victimization

  • Witnessing violence or death

  • Domestic Violence


Little 't' Trauma


Lesser traumatic experiences can still be very distressing and debilitating. Little "t" traumas are the ones that are harder to recognize, as are their impact on you. These are the experiences that might be traumatic for one person but not necessarily another. These are the daily hurts that occur across time and build on each other. They’re the ones that not only might others not recognize for the traumas they are, you might not recognize why you’re feeling stressed or emotional either. It’s not how the triggering event compares to what someone else has experienced that makes it a trauma; it’s defined as a trauma because of your own emotional experience of it.


Little "t" traumas are the ones that trigger you. They’re the events that cause ongoing stress, anxiety, depression, or problems in your marriage and relationships. It’s as if you have a button on your body and when it gets pushed, you go to a qualitatively different state of being. Your body either revs up or shuts down. Your feelings are more intense than seems to fit the situation and might be more similar to the feelings of a 5-year-old than a 50-year old. That’s because the hot button is attached to an old hurt, or many old hurts.


For some, the Little t hurts involve the kind of response we try to stuff down, but the hurts re-emerge some time later, when the button is pushed again. Others may respond to the discomfort by some sort of impulsive, knee-jerk reaction and may take it out on someone else. If you are this type of responder, those are the reactions that you have come to regret, the ones that you end up sabotaging yourself with or causing problems for those you love.


Some examples of Little "t' trauma are:


  • Emotional Abuse

  • Neglect

  • Failure Experiences

  • Phobia related experiences

  • Losses

  • Learning problems

  • Stress at work or school

  • Lack of empathy from others

  • Minor accidents


Will Get You There!

Brainspotting Specialist


Dave Dodge, L.C.S.W., C.B.S.P.


Skype Sessions are available


  (914) 391-4350       Mt. Kisco, N.Y. 

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