Trauma?! But it wasn’t that bad…

….other people had it worse.

….it was so long ago.

….at least I wasn’t _____.

….I don’t even know why it still bothers me.

Often clients don’t initially relate to the word ‘trauma’ and tend to reject it as not applicable to them or their experiences. I totally get that. Some traumas are more obvious- an accident, an assault, war experience. Others can be less apparent- the way we were raised, complicated relationships, or controlling environments. When we use the word trauma we are talking about difficult experiences or patterns in our relationships that impact the way we think and feel long after it is over. 

The formal assessment of trauma looks for symptoms including hypervigilance, nightmares, dissociation, and flashbacks. When I’m evaluating for trauma I listen for words like, “but it wasn’t that bad” and “it could have been worse” which tell me that you have important feelings about something that is confusing or overwhelming to you in a way you might not understand. Or maybe you know very well the past/present connections but struggle to make the desired changes.

Whether you consider your experiences trauma or not, it’s okay to take a look at the hard moments in your life to understand how they have impacted you. Having these conversations is not always easy, but the benefit of understanding your day-to-day struggles and the underlying patterns will make lasting changes in your life and relationships. 


Author: Maureen Bethea, LMFT, EMDRIA Approved Consultant and Certified EMDR provider