Different Types of Trauma

Acute, Chronic, and Complex are three types of traumas. Acute trauma results from a single event which in its nature can be emotional, physical or both. Chronic trauma is repeated and prolonged such as domestic violence and abuse in all its forms. Complex trauma is varied with exposure to multiple interpersonal traumatic events often invasion in nature.

There is small “t” trauma and big “T” trauma

Small “t” traumas are events that leave us feeling hopeless usually for a relative short period of time. They are difficult in the moment and most people think of them as difficult events they may need to muster the courage to get through. For young people these may be moving schools, death of a pet or a friend suddenly stops talking to you. For adults small “t” traumas are financial worries, divorce, infidelity as well as circumstances that effect young people.

Small ‘”t” traumas cause emotional distress and/or may cause disruption to your life plans. They are generally common occurrences meaning that someone you know will have experienced it. They are easier to recall and describe.

Big “T” traumas are extraordinary and significant events where people are left powerless and hopeless when it happens and after the event. Examples are sexual assault, violence, a car or a plane accident.

Usually when big “T” trauma occurs, there is a mind-body response to help you survive. Your flight, fight or freeze response is activated. According to renowned trauma expert Gabor Mate, trauma is not what happens to you but rather how your body reacts to what happened to you. The mind-body are not able to process the intense emotions and memories during or after the trauma.

Big “T” trauma is not always easily recalled or detected since the brains main objective is for on-going survival, the memory often becomes distorted or confused. However, fragments of the trauma (image, sound, smell, situation etc) may become stuck in your mind keeping it live instead of processed and filed away. This may result in intrusive flashbacks and/or spontaneous sensations.

All trauma has the power to alter the way you live (subtly, effectively, or extremely) since it happened. Also, you’ll struggle to regulate the intensity of certain emotions, having responses and reactions outside of your control. The predictability of your responses and reactions will vary.

No one has a right to judge your experience if you believe it to be a trauma. If you feel what you went through was traumatic then never negate this in comparison to another person’s experience. I hear so often clients say, “Even though I experienced this trauma, ‘so and so’ has it much worse”.

What Matters…

Show yourself a level of self-compassion by honouring how you feel. Try not to get caught up with labels or comparisons! When it comes to treatment, it really doesn’t matter how you define it but rather the way it affects you. Seek clarity on how you would like to feel moving forward.

How trauma affects you?

The way I ask clients to understand how a traumatic experience affects them is two parts.

Firstly, at the time of event try to recall and measure the level of distress caused. On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being worst) how much distress did it cause then and how much distress does it cause to recall. This gives an idea of how the event was processed by the mind at the time and since time has passed how unprocessed the event remains.

Secondly, I ask the client to think about the frequency of thoughts, dreams, daydreams about the event (or connected to fragments) on a scale of 0-3 with 3 being high frequency. This helps to understand the way the trauma or negative experience impacts a client’s life in the present moment.

The caveat is not everyone is in touch with themselves to even know if they have a trauma let alone how it affects them. For some clients the memory of the event is vague and distant so they may score less on both. This requires further investigating because often there may be a persistent thought or belief that prevents the client from being able to create a life they really want. Also, a client may be aware of an unhealthy coping behaviour, which upon investigating, leads back to a traumatic event.

Trauma is nuanced in the way it is experienced by individuals. We each have a window of tolerance which means we respond to a level of distress according to our tolerance. Two siblings growing up in the same home with a drunken, verbally abusive father will create different mental maps of the negative events. They will be affected the same and differently by different elements of the experiences depending on exposure and their personality. One sibling might become hypersensitive to auditory stimulus (loud spontaneous noises) and is otherwise regulated emotionally. The second sibling may develop trust issues and struggle to harbour trust in close relationships. Think of experiencing trauma as shattered glass where no two pieces are the same.

The key to successful living is to further your understanding of the ways the trauma affects you today. How it restricts you. How it blocks your potential. How you would function without the intensity of emotions. Trauma healing isn’t about erasing memories. Our memories are what makes us the rounded people we are. My definition of healing is to untangle the memory from the intense emotions, so you can live your life with your emotions balanced. It’s by doing this work you become more of the person you are meant to be.

Some clients use intense emotions, especially anger and fear to fuel their careers or other goals. They justify their behaviour as it’s evidently producing their perceived gains and keeping insecurities at bay. They feel valid and in control, but the reality is the intense emotions are dragging them through life. They over control situations and people to create a sense of certainty. Anger and fear create stress and high alertness in our nervous system. When we operate from a place of stress, we are purely in survival mode. We are not creative or resourceful. We are not compassionate or kind. We are defensive and explosive when things don’t go our way. In this state, we may achieve a goal or two but burn-out is inevitable. Our relationships suffer. Using intense emotions offers neither longevity nor sustainability.

How can I help you?

As a Transformation Coach, I believe evidence-based treatments such as EMDR is both important and beneficial based on research findings and anecdotal testimonials. As an advanced EMDR coach, I will help you ‘reprocess’ a traumatic memory so you’re able to eliminate (or drastically reduce) the intensity of emotions and thoughts; and the impact they hold over your life. With most of my clients I would offer Hypnotherapy as part of a comprehensive programme too. Hypnotherapy will embed the positive thoughts, feeling and behaviours that will support the version of you, you wish to create.

Once thing is for sure, avoidance is not going to heal you. Working through what happened with the right coach and the right modalities is a sure way to improve your quality of life. You’re just moments away from a transformative decision to begin your own healing journey. You don’t have to feel low or down for any longer than you choose. Book a free call now to find out about how a personalised coaching plans can get to work for you.

Ready to Heal fromTrauma?

Recent Blog Post

Can EMDR Cure Co-dependency If It’s Rooted In Trauma?

Can EMDR Cure Co-dependency If It’s Rooted In Trauma?

Co-dependency, often rooted in past traumas and relational patterns, can deeply impact one’s life, relationships, and sense of self. For those seeking healing, various therapeutic modalities offer hope, including Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR).

How To Heal Myself From Trauma?

How To Heal Myself From Trauma?

Trauma is a powerful force that can leave lasting scars on our minds and bodies, affecting every aspect of our lives. Whether it stems from a single event or prolonged exposure to adverse experiences, trauma can disrupt our sense of safety, shatter our beliefs, and undermine our ability to trust ourselves and others.

How Do Women In Top Positions Balance Life And Work?

How Do Women In Top Positions Balance Life And Work?

Women have been increasingly breaking barriers and assuming leadership roles across various industries. From boardrooms to executive suites, their presence is steadily reshaping the corporate world. There are more women entering the entrepreneurial space with solutions to every day and global issues. Exciting times.