“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can come out of it.”
Maya Angelou

Re-think Trauma

When you hear the word trauma, what comes to your mind? My guess is that it’s PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Your mind may even conjure up images of violence, war, or violent acts when you hear the word trauma.

But did you know that trauma includes both big – T traumas such as those (life threatening) that warrant a PTSD diagnosis and small t – traumas (experiences) which you might not think of as trauma?
An incomprehensive list of small – t traumas includes; sexual abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, death of a significant person in your life, heart-breaking break-ups, neglect, harassment, racial / gender discrimination, being bullied, growing up in a family with mental health or substance use problems, instability due to parental separation, witnessing violence, or having a family member attempt or die by suicide.
Small– t traumas are often dismissed or treated as insignificant. However, prolonged exposure to these traumas has been found to be as equally or even more emotionally detrimental than exposure to big-T traumas.



Trauma is prevalent

Between 1995 and 1997, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente, conducted a study of experience of traumatic events in childhood. (They termed these experiences, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)). They found that 1 in 6 adults in the US had experienced 1 or more ACEs before the age of 18.They also found that 5 out of the 10 leading causes of death in the US are associated with ACEs. ACEs are also linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance use problems in adolescence and adulthood.

Trauma is stored in your body in encoded memories. For example, you see someone who looks like or sounds like the abusive boss you had and your body unconsciously triggers the stress response. Your response to the traumatic experiences may be influencing you and your life unconsciously. Exposure to prolonged trauma, from which there is no escape or way to fight back, for example, childhood abuse, triggers the freeze response as a coping strategy. The freeze response (shutdown) is a way to avoid more emotional abuse. But it also hides and severely compromises your true-self.

Flooded with anxiety.

Trauma may have left you flooded with anxiety. You may also experience intense feelings and anxiety triggered by traumatic memories. Overwhelm, powerlessness, and loss of control are the result of trauma from which there is no escape. They are the result of the freeze response and they may expose you to more victimization. You can heal from trauma. You can regain your power. Imagine being able to feel in control, having calmness instead of overwhelm, and having a sense of empowerment instead of powerlessness.