Starting at the beginning: What is Trauma?

Starting at the beginning: What is Trauma?

A simple description of trauma that is that psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security and result in you feeling helpless, alone and vulnerable in a dangerous world.

We often categorize trauma as “big T trauma” and “little T trauma”. This doesn’t at all mean that some traumatic events are undervalued, but helps us understand further the definition of trauma to include things that may not be found within the DSM IV (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) definition.

We are all familiar with examples of big T traumas: sexual abuse and rape, physical or emotional abuse, neglect, natural disasters, war experiences, car accidents. Little t traumas can be just as damaging, especially because they tend to occur over time, and build upon each other. Examples would be ongoing experiences of shame, humiliation, being lImageeft out, being harassed/ stalked, being bullied or ridiculed. All traumatic experiences affect how we experience the world around us, and our relationships with other people.

When there is a strong support system working around the person who has experienced trauma, this can help to stop the impact being so detrimental and these relationships can allow a natural recovery to occur if there is consistency in the love, trust and emotional engagement. However, the likelihood is that the traumatic event has impacted more than just the one person, and the ripples have influenced the wider support network. This is where therapy can play a vital part in helping people to recover from the impact of traumatic events.

Time alone does not heal all wounds, no matter what people say. The traumatic memory becomes stuck, like a heavy load lodged into the subconscious that informs and influences our decisions, desires and futures.


When we don’t allow time for the healing and recovery from trauma, that person carries around a subconscious load that weighs them down, changes their perception of life and can cause health problems. To process the trauma enables a person to heal and the mess that has been made in the heart of the person who has experienced the pain, can even be redeemed to become a message of hope for others.

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