The word “trauma” is commonly associated with events such as:

  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Natural disasters
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Violent automobile accidents
  • The unexpected death of a loved one

Because these are events that people almost universally identify as traumatic, they might be thought of as “Big-T” traumas

But traumatization can result from other circumstances that are less overt or are routinely trivialized, yet have as severe an impact.  These can be thought of as “Little-t” traumas.  They are analogous to “death by a thousand paper cuts.”  Examples include:

  • Sexism, racism or homophobia
  • Repeated teasing, bullying or shaming
  • Neglect
  • Emotional abuse
  • Persistent poverty or hunger

Make no mistake here –  the consequences of both “Big-T” and “Little-t” traumas are just as serious.  A person might be left with intense anxiety around people, places, or circumstances that are reminiscent of the original traumatic event.  Symptoms such as persistent negative thoughts and feelings, avoidance, and changes in usual behavior are common.  One might become easily distracted or feel more on edge.  Flashbacks and nightmares can set in.  Sometimes trauma survivors experience a sense of being outside of themselves or separate from their surroundings, as if what’s happening in that moment is not real.  

So why do these symptoms occur, even long after the traumatic incident?  The reason is because traumatic experiences cannot be processed by the brain the same way as other information.  The brain finds itself in a state of system-overload under such duress and it’s as if the traumatic memories then become stuck or frozen.  Consequently, any thoughts, feelings, or sensations reminiscent of the original trauma can trigger a sense of re-experiencing it all over again.    


EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a worldwide leading form of trauma treatment.  Originally used to help treat veterans, it is known to yield much faster symptom relief than traditional talk therapy.

In recent years, advances in neuroscience have shown that the brain has a similar ability to heal itself as the body.  EMDR draws upon a process called bilateral stimulation to activate this healing.  By very briefly engaging the thoughts, feelings, and sensations associated with a traumatic event and then adding bilateral stimulation, the brain is able to process what it originally wasn’t able to under extreme duress. 

The outcome is a reduction and often complete resolution of trauma-related symptoms.  Memory remains entirely intact, but the physical and emotional charges are finally resolved.