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The Difference Between ‘Big T’ And ‘Little T’ Trauma & Why It Matte | Mitzi Bockmann

All trauma isn’t created equal, right? 

We think that a “Big T” trauma is something huge, like a death in the family, getting a divorce, being in a car accident, war or bankruptcy, to name a few. It’s also considered “Big T” trauma when it has a beginning and an end, like the examples before.

We think a “Little T” trauma is smaller, like a breakup, not getting accepted into the college of our choice, fighting with a friend, slipping on ice, or losing our phone, to name a few.

In actuality, “Little T” traumas are events that don’t have a set end point, or go on for a long time. Not a tornado or an avalanche, but still possibly traumatizing.

These terms have become common shorthand when talking about trauma, which is helpful to many people. But qualifying some as “big” and some as “small” means people believe these traumas should affect us differently, and that we whould heal from them dramatically differently.

Big T should be harder and take longer to heal, Little T should be easier, just based on the name. Right? 

Not exactly!

RELATED: The Surprises You Might Discover When Peeling Away The Layers Of Trauma

How to recognize trauma when you feel it

According to the APA, trauma is defined as “Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, in her best-selling book Eat, Pray, Love, writes about a therapist friend who was offering to counsel a group of Cambodian refugees, refugees who “had suffered the worst of what humans can inflict on each other — genocide, rape, torture, starvation, the murder of their relatives …”

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