A Small Trauma Can Be A Big Trauma

Often times, the largest traumas in our lives can grow from the tiniest incidents.

Now, I’m not talking about things that are very obviously awful: death, violence, horror.

I’m talking about the seemingly innocent things that happen to us as kids:

  • Someone doesn’t behave the way we’d like
  • We’re treated unfairly
  • Someone (typically a parent) says something we misunderstand
  • We miss out on something
  • … and so on

Why is it that these trivial events can have such outsize effects on our lives?

The key to understanding is to remember that we weren’t mature yet when these events occurred.

Sure, we can look back now and see that “I wanted a special hat on my birthday but they’d run out so I got a regular one instead” really doesn’t compare to the horrors that many people have suffered. However, at the time, it was still a big deal.

Why? Because we were kids!

When you’re a kid, damn near everything is a big deal.

I watched my brother cry for twenty minutes once because he lost 20 cents. Yes, 20 cents. It’s kinda funny now, but at the time he was a kid, so why is he expected to know any better?

I had a conversation with my Mum when I was 4. Know what I learned? That she didn’t love me.

How ridiculous (and wrong!) is that?

Even more crazy is that I remember the conversation and can see that what she was trying to teach me was the exact opposite. That she did love me.

How is it possible to get completely the opposite idea from a simple conversation?

Easy. I was four. How much do four year olds know? Not a whole hell of a lot.

The thing is, it’s too easy to look back at these kinds of experiences and dismiss them out of hand. Wave them away as the trivialities that we (as grownups) see them for.

Shame will encourage us to do this, but it doesn’t mean these events aren’t still significantly affecting us, even today.

When we were kids they seemed huge. Thus, their effect on us is huge. Therefore, if we wish to truly heal their effect (and our lives), we need to treat the situation as it felt at the time: serious and life threatening.

Remember, we’ve spent decades reliving this trauma at volume 11. How awful it actually was is irrelevant compared to how much pain our memories have put us through reliving it, over and over all this time.

Now fortunately, humans are generally pretty robust. There’ll have been dozens of situations as a kid that might have screwed you up, but didn’t.

If you look back though, you’ll instantly know the small handful that have deeply affected you.

These are the ones to heal. These are the ones to treat with the respect they deserve.

These are the ones that, no matter how tiny they look now, will have a disproportionately positive effect on your life by resolving.