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The Trauma Experience: What is little t trauma?

Updated: Jan 20, 2023

Psychologist DR. ESSLIN TERRIGHENA explains what little t trauma is and how it affects our mental health.

Little t trauma results from traumatic experiences that are highly distressing and disruptive without being physically life-threatening. They often include events that we have normalized as part of life, such as divorce, rejection, physical and psychological abuse, infidelity, financial hardship, or moving home. While these events may be common, normalizing them can make us feel like we should not be experiencing intense feelings to them. When we nonetheless do, we may feel additional emotions of shame or guilt for “making a big deal out of it”.

Little t trauma can have detrimental effects on our wellbeing and feed into our unhelpful patterns even decades later. This makes the way it is frequently overlooked or dismissed particularly problematic. The first step in therapy is often not addressing the trauma and traumatic incidents themselves, but rather reducing immense feelings of shame that block individuals from even acknowledging they experienced something traumatic, let alone processing and resolving this trauma.

Little t trauma, just like Big T Trauma, needs to be taken seriously and deserves just as much attention and treatment. It is crucial to recognize and identify feelings that arise from little t trauma rather than suppressing them. Suppressed feelings tend to become stronger and stronger, expressing themselves in deflected responses of anger or anxiety to seemingly unrelated triggers or circumstances, until we eventually need to pay attention to them. Understanding, acknowledging, and accepting that something that happened to us – no matter how big or small – triggers intense, and at times confusing or conflicting feelings, is an essential part of the process of healing from little t trauma.

To find out more about how trauma therapy can help you recover from past trauma, book a consultation with psychologist Dr. Esslin Terrighena, please contact (852) 2521 4668 or

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