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Myth VS Reality of Big “T” and Little “t” Trauma

Talk about trauma seems to be pervasive these days. Discussions of trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and trauma recovery are even represented in the shows and movies we watch. While this representation is important to help people recognize signs that they’re struggling with trauma recovery, more representation also means more misrepresentation. The idea of big “T” and little “t” trauma is one area where there is a lot of misinformation. Even therapists don’t all agree on this subject. In this blog, we’re going to tackle some of the myths associated with trauma to better explain the way it impacts individuals and how therapy can help with healing following trauma.

Myth 1 – All Trauma Is Related to Life-Threatening Events

Let’s start with this big issue. The idea behind big “T” versus little “t” trauma is that there are severe and life-threatening experiences that usually occur infrequently and will trigger a trauma response in almost anyone. These big “T” traumas may include things like car accidents, near death experiences, and domestic partner violence. While most people recognize this form of trauma, there are some experiences that trigger a trauma response that people wouldn’t necessarily think of. This may include things like difficult life transitions, arguments with loved ones, grief and loss, financial concerns, and legal disputes. While these little “t” traumas don’t necessarily endanger our lives, they challenge our sense of stability and safety, which can still trigger a trauma response.

Myth 2 – Smaller Traumas Should Be Managed on Your Own

When people experience these little “t” traumas, they may feel pressure to get over it or fix the problem on their own. For many of us, this response to little “t” trauma begins in our childhood when a parent or caregiver might not offer validation when we express upset over something that seemed small to them but felt big and painful to us. We often continue that thought process learned in our childhood into our adult lives, and we find ourselves responding to small “t” traumas with thoughts like, “I should just get over it because this isn’t a big deal and no one else is having a tough time with this.” It’s important to remember that everyone responds to trauma (of any type) differently, and that’s okay. Respect and honor your response to trauma, and if you need help working through trauma, don’t hesitate to ask for it. You never need to manage and heal from trauma alone.

Myth 3 – Only Weak People Struggle After Traumatic Experiences

This is a big misconception that gets spread around about trauma of all kinds, and it couldn’t be less accurate. Anyone can have an adverse response to trauma and struggle to heal and move forward. There is never any shame in the way you respond to trauma. Having a difficult time managing trauma response doesn’t make you weak – it makes you human!

Myth 4 – You Can’t Heal from Trauma

This is one of those myths that we see a lot in media representations of trauma. You know it’s the long-suffering character who’s a survivor of traumatic events constantly revisited and retraumatized by their past who can’t seem to move on. There’s probably at least one of these characters on your favorite TV show. While pop culture tends to romanticize the struggling, wounded person who never heals and moves on, this doesn’t have to be the way the story goes for people who are having a difficult time after trauma. There are many evidence-supported therapy approaches that offer healing.

Myth 5 – Therapy Is Only Helpful After Severe Trauma

The final myth we want to debunk is the one that says therapy is only for people who have experienced big “T” trauma. Therapy can help you understand and manage the impact of any type of trauma in your life. If you’re interested in getting started with therapy, don’t hesitate to contact the Center for CBT in New York City. We look forward to hearing from you.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


What Should I Do Next?

When you’re ready to begin therapy, we hope you’ll consider contacting The Center for CBT in New York City. We offer a safe space where you are free to be who you really are and express yourself and your values authentically. We embrace, value, and welcome people of all sexual orientations, genders, and racial identities. The Center for CBT in New York City makes beginning your therapy journey simple. You can get started any time by completing our online consultation request form. One of our team members will be in touch within 24 business hours to answer your questions.

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