Some people use the term loosely, while others feel they aren't allowed to say they've experienced trauma unless something huge has happened to them. But what does that even mean?
Trauma is a blanket term that encompasses any event that causes someone to experience fear, helplessness, and/or grief. This can include anything from an accident or natural disaster to a carjacking or assault. It can also include feeling trapped or emotionally neglected, or a general sense that your environment is unsafe. Trauma is not as much about what happens to us but rather the impact it has on our brains and bodies.
While some people may be able to get over trauma with time and support, others are affected by it long-term, causing them to relive the traumatic event over and over again through flashbacks, nightmares or feelings of anxiety in response to everyday situations - whether they realize it or not. For some people, these feelings can be so overwhelming that they can't function in day-to-day life. Some indications that someone has unresolved trauma include difficulty sitting in certain emotions and a tendency to want to suppress negative feelings that come up. This often leads to an intensification of the symptoms and a resulting frustration around being unable to get out of this experience.
There are many effective therapeutic interventions for working with trauma depending on your situation. Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a well-known intervention that can help you resolve trauma by helping you identify the negative beliefs that are central to your story and helping you integrate more adaptive beliefs in place. It works by harnessing the problem-solving parts of your brain, which means you don't have to talk about your traumatic experiences in-depth. This can be helpful if you're struggling to talk about your trauma, or if you find traditional therapy difficult. Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy (EFIT) can also be an effective intervention that works by harnessing the power of attachment in a way that can help you heal from past wounds and current unhelpful ways of coping.
Whatever approach is used, it is essential that you feel safe with your therapist and establish a good connection with them when doing any kind of trauma work. This means that you need to feel comfortable communicating with your therapist, and feel like they are someone you can trust.
As a final note, no trauma is too small or insignificant to potentially benefit from therapeutic intervention. I encourage you not to minimize your own experiences if you feel they have been impactful in your life. Someone else's struggle does not invalidate your own. You are worthy of attention and respect. Your individual experiences are valid, and you deserve to be seen and heard.