When you have difficult experiences in your past, it can feel like the past is invading the present.
You have tried to move on from upsetting past experiences but sometimes it all comes crashing back. Whether it’s a traumatic experience; a difficult childhood; chronic worry; or feelings guilt and shame; your past doesn’t have the right to invade your present.
You may not consider what you experienced to be trauma. Not all trauma is “big T” trauma. In the mental health community, we talk about “big T” and “little t” trauma. These are concepts and phrases that are not mentioned much outside of the mental health community. “Big T” trauma are the things that everyone agrees and acknowledges are traumatic. These can be things like:
- Fighting in a war
- Witnessing a death
- Experiencing or witnessing a terrorist attack
- Seeing or being part of a serious accident
- Sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse
- Severe physical abuse
Most anyone will affirm that those experiences are traumatic. These are events or experiences where we feel that our life is threatened.
“Little t” traumas are smaller things that not everyone will acknowledge are traumatic. They might be things like:
- Verbal, psychological, or emotional abuse
- Being the target of bullying
- Loss of a friendship or relationship breakup
- The death of a pet
- Divorce, your own or that of your parents/caregivers
- Sexual harassment
- Experiencing unemployment, being unhoused, or being unsure of when you will have access to food/water
- Medical malpractice
- Being part of a minority community that society discriminates against whether overtly or covertly. Systemic racism, sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, etc.
- Anything that negatively impacts us deeply might be a trauma to us, even if someone else might not consider it traumatic if it happened to them.
“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams healing can begin.”
How do we move on from difficult past experiences?
Working with a therapist is one of the best ways to process and move on from trauma. While talking to friends and family can be helpful for some “little t” traumas, for other issues our friends and family are not equipped to help us process.
EMDR therapy is one popular form of trauma therapy. EMDR works by engaging both sides of the brain through bilateral stimulation, while the person who has experienced trauma thinks about the situation. Some clients prefer EMDR to traditional talk therapy, because they do not have to discuss the traumatic even that they experienced in detail. In fact, some clients never disclose the trauma at all, instead asking the therapist to refer to it as “the incident” or similar. EMDR can also be used in conjunction with traditional talk therapy.
For some traumatic experiences, exploring our feelings about the situation and processing it through traditional talk therapy is the best way to begin to heal.
Stacey is a therapist in private practice and the owner of Inspired Happiness Therapy and Wellness in Ridgeland, MS. If you are in the state of Mississippi and are interested in seeing Stacey for therapy, please visit the Appointments page.