When you think about traumatic events, you most likely think of significant occurrences like natural disasters or violence during war. These types of incidents, known as big T traumas, can leave emotional wounds that continue long after the threat is over. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develops when symptoms linger and become unmanageable. While not everyone who survives traumatic events develops PTSD, those who do will often have an easier time identifying the cause or origin of their distress because of the scale of their exposure. The magnitude of a big T traumatic event can also make it easier to recognize the need for extra help, like a support group or individual therapy.
However, “little t” traumas are sometimes a little more challenging to spot as traumatic, making it easier to miss the need for help and creating a scenario where little t traumas may become cumulative. For example, financial strain, sudden job loss, infidelity, experiencing repeated exposure to discrimination, and divorce are all examples of little t traumas that can lead to PTSD-like symptoms, particularly when a combination of these are in play. It may be harder to spot the signs of emotional distress, especially if we tell ourselves that our stressor is “normal.” Still, the impact of little t traumatic events can lead to disturbances in sleep, chronic physical ailments, difficulty regulating emotions, and hypervigilance, as we see in the wake of a big T trauma.
A common symptom of PTSD for both big T and little t traumas is shame. Shame occurs when we feel being affected by the events somehow makes us “less than” or undeserving of empathy. Statements such as, “well, other people have it worse” and “I should just be able to get over it” are common responses to struggling with the impact of trauma. Shame can become even more pronounced when dealing with little t traumas. It may prevent victims from recognizing the emotional and physical effects or the need to seek treatment. Shame can inhibit healing because it never allows the trauma to come to light. However, the way out of the impact of trauma is through acknowledging it and learning to make new meaning in the world.
The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone; there are treatments to help. Our therapists at Family Renewal Counseling are trained to help you navigate both big T and little t traumas as you struggle with the impact. We will partner with you and face it together.