The Difference Between ‘Big T’ and ‘Little T’ Trauma and Why It Matters | Mitzi Bockman

The Difference Between ‘Big T’ and ‘Little T’ Trauma and Why It Matters |  Mitzi Bockman

Not all trauma is created equal, is it?

We believe that a “Big T” trauma is something huge, such as a death in the family, divorce, car accident, war or bankruptcy, to name a few. It is also considered a “Big T” trauma when it has a beginning and an end, like the previous examples.

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

In reality, “Little T” traumas are events that have no definite endpoint or are long lasting. Not a tornado or an avalanche, but still possibly traumatic.

These terms have become common shorthand for talking about trauma, which is helpful to many people. But calling some “big” and some “small” means that people think these traumas should affect us differently and that we should heal from them in radically different ways.

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 Uncover As You Remove 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 such as an accident, rape, or natural disaster.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, in her bestseller Eat Pray Lovewrites about a therapist friend who offered to counsel a group of Cambodian refugees, refugees who “had suffered the worst that humans can inflict on each other – genocide, rape, torture, starvation, murder of their relatives…”

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