Pop psychology may have us believe that something can only be labeled as “trauma” if it was extreme such as physical abuse or witnessing a horrific event. But the true definition of the word trauma is “A deeply distressing or disturbing experience.” Perhaps you have had an experience that fits that description, but because it wasn’t something that most of society calls “true trauma,” you didn’t feel you could talk about it, or give it the importance that you felt it deserved.
When you think about one’s capacity to feel deeply disturbed or distressed, children may come to mind. Children don’t yet have the knowledge, sense of self, or overall psychological fortitude that (some) adults have to experience something disturbing, and not be impacted by it. Children are like sponges, absorbing everything they see, hear, and experience to their cores. It can take decades for that sponge to dry up, and for those traumas to solidify on the surface of someone’s being, affecting the way they handle life as an adult. And, again, if your trauma doesn’t meet the description of commonly-accepted traumatic experiences, you may not even know to look for any side effects of it. We spoke with Melissa Dumaz, MS, LMFT about overlooked types of childhood trauma. Find Dumaz on all socials @UHelpYou.
Nobody else can label your trauma
“Sometimes we have this misconception about what trauma is,” says Dumaz. “We often think of major life events, but trauma can be any adverse life event that has happened for you. Trauma can be individualized. The truth is, yes, there are some common themes that we understand as being traumatic. But we all respond differently to our life events.”