What comes to mind when you hear the word trauma? Maybe a specific traumatic event or some violent physical harm, or maybe you’ve heard the word used so broadly and applied so frequently you cannot pinpoint any specific meaning. Here at Harmony Family Center, we spend a lot of time learning and teaching the topic of trauma and we know there are some pretty big misconceptions about this little word and the myriad of experiences it encompasses.
As you suspect, trauma is tricky in more ways than one, so we’ll start with some terms: Big T Trauma and little t trauma. Most of those dramatic ideas that came to mind (e.g., hurricanes, car accidents, violence, child abuse or neglect) are Big T. What you might know less about is the little t: daily, recurring, harmful stressors that can lead to the experience and symptoms of trauma.
Here’s a word you’ll recognize more easily: stress. It’s 2020. Stress is something we are all intimately acquainted with like never before, and stress lives on a continuum. Positive stress, like new challenges and changing routines require energy but ultimately lead to growth. When stress becomes overwhelmingly negative it can also be called little t trauma. Always complex, this type of stress sneaks up on us when we do not have the sufficient level of internal or external supports to maintain our health, work, and relationships.
When we understand trauma, we understand our world better: our partners, children, friends, and communities; our adversaries, and ourselves. When you hear the terms trauma or trauma-informed, this is what it means. When you understand how life’s daily, gnawing worries and stressors can lead to significant, life-impacting trauma, you can respond with empathy and support. As Barbara Kingsolver wisely said, “Empathy is the capacity to understand that someone else’s pain is as meaningful as your own.”
If stress is impacting your life, or you find yourself elsewhere on this continuum, Harmony is here with helpful resources and our distinct approach: whole brain, whole body, whole community. Are you or your family approaching an intolerable level of stress, feeling unusually burdened by life and impacting your relationships and happiness? Before stress turns to trauma, reach out for available help.
Harmony is a statewide organization with roots in child welfare, adoption, and foster care. We know, because of our work with some of Tennessee’s most vulnerable children and families, the impact trauma of all types and sizes has on individuals and communities alike. Harmony is committed to providing holistic, comprehensive care from the clinic to the community. We have a team of clinicians available in Knox and Blount counties in person, or via telehealth across the region and state. Harmony provides experiential therapy, including equine- and canine- assisted therapy, and is a national leader on trauma-specific trainings.