Trauma vs. Stress

Traumatized-heartWhen people hear the word ‘trauma’ they often think of experiences like Wars, natural disasters, and abuse.  People often think that someone other than themselves have or experienced trauma.   However, people often think of stress as an everyday occurrence often tied to work, family or financial situations.  What if trauma and stress were one and the same,  just with different levels?

In the field of trauma (studies), the term trauma encompasses a broader spectrum.  Trauma is characterized by Big T and little t trauma. Big T trauma is overt (in your face, can’t miss experiences) such as wars, natural disasters, car accidents, or abuse.  People expect these experiences to leave trauma ‘scars’  whether emotional, psychological, or physical. However, the little t trauma is much more subtle and covert (sneaky and hidden).  Little t trauma would be considered experiences such as, a child being consistently criticized by a parent/authority figure in some way, could be about grades, body image, weight, sports or the parent’s expectations are placed on the child without concern consideration of the child’s abilities, needs or wants, or being bullied (by family or peers), or given the silent treatment one too many times (that’s a form of abandonment/neglect to the child). These are just some examples. Because covert little t trauma is so sneaky, there are numerous ways that someone can experience the little t’s. You add up the little t’s and they are known to impact the individual just as much as a Big T trauma.  That’s right.  All those little t’s add up to impact the emotional, mental and physical well-being just as much as a Big T.  The little t’s are the slow consistent chipping away of the self-esteem or the soul identity of the individual – most often unintentional.

Another definition for trauma is : any experience that overwhelms the nervous system.  Another name for stress is Life experience.  Guess what?.  Everyone has life experiences and no one gets off this planet without experiencing Life in some manner whether positive or negative.  Most of us, if not all of us will or have experienced some sort of trauma in our lives. Therefore, it’s not trauma vs. stress, but rather trauma = stress.

Why is this important?

1. Trauma as a word is often seen as daunting and something that someone else has, but equalizing it with stress (overwhelming stress) levels the playing field for folks.

2.  Because stress (trauma) impacts the nervous system.  Once your nervous system is impacted, then your psychological, physical and emotional health and your relationships are affected as well as your ability to make good decisions and listen to the wisdom of your heart and spirit.

In the next few posts, I’m going to go a bit deeper into stress and the nervous system, how it impacts the Self and share some tools for health.

In Gratitude.


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