The quote “Big Doors swing on little hinges” by W. Clement Stone is an apt metaphor for the so-called small emotional traumas we encounter throughout life; for many, the source of life’s limiting beliefs, challenges and drivers which all too often show up as emotional, comfort and disordered eating and the challenge of maintaining a healthy body weight..
We dismiss these small traumas as unimportant, however for many of us these small traumatic events (hinges) stack up to swing large emotional doors (limiting beliefs) that block us and hamper our efforts to feel better, be better and do better……
“It’s not necessarily the specific event or situation that’s stressful, but the persons own emotional experience of it.”
A major aspect of the successful, long lasting effects of using Gold Standard EFT is to find and thoroughly clear out specific upsetting events, usually from the early parts of peoples’ life that continue to adversely affect them in some way today; little hinges – big doors.
In supporting my clients find their specific events we have a conversation focused on identifying traumatic events from early parts of their lives. Quite often they look at me quizzically, saying “I haven’t experienced any traumatic situations in my life.” That’s because they are telling me, thankfully, they haven’t encountered child abuse, domestic abuse/violence, rape, Road Traffic Collison (RTC), war, witnessed a violent death or natural disasters.
These are the situations most of us would associate as traumatic events, right? Here’s the thing, trauma can be broken down into two categories of life events: “small t” and “Big T” traumas. Those listed above, I’m sure you’ll agree, fall into the “Big T” category. This is in no way meant to imply that ANY traumatic events are insignificant! I’m simply recognising it as a way of expanding the definition and understanding of emotional/psychological trauma.
So what is emotional or psychological trauma?
It comes about as a result of the situation(s) people encounter that bring about a particularly high level of emotional distress. This can ruin their sense of security, leaving them with feelings of helplessness, loneliness and vulnerability, often with ongoing, long lasting adverse effects. This is unique to each individual, what one person finds emotionally distressing another will not, making it very subjective; it’s not necessarily the event or situation that’s stressful, but the persons own emotional experience of it.
So, in short – any situation that leaves someone feeling overwhelmed and/or unable to cope can be described as traumatising, whether it begins with a “small t” or a “Big T”. The human brain is wired to respond to threats, whether they are physical or emotional, real or imagined, with the so-called flight, fight or freeze response.
It’s the anticipation of danger or threat that activates the person’s limbic system to set off a series of events telling their nervous system to prepare for survival mode; stand firm and/or fight, get the hell out of there or, if escape is not possible then freeze or lay low.
Disruptions to the energy system can be caused in these fight, flight and freeze situations and remain/get stuck there when the nervous system hasn’t had the opportunity to return to a state of equilibrium. For example a teacher humiliates a pupil in class who has no right to respond; in a RTC where there is no means of escape from the oncoming vehicle(s), someone is beaten up by a gang……..
The daily hurts that happen to many of us that build up on top of each other over time. Eventually, exposed to enough “small t” traumas, they can be just as damaging as any “Big T” trauma.
Most people are aware of the “Big T” traumas mentioned above. Events, such as child abuse, domestic abuse/violence, rape, RTC, war, witnessed a violent death or natural disasters that involve physical harm and/or a threat to life or physical safety. Many of which, in the most severe forms, often lead to symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Whereas “Small t” traumas are those more common life events and experiences that have caused some form of upset. On the surface they are not thought of as “traumatising,” meaning they are often more difficult to recognise by the person who experienced it or by others, as are their impact on them.
As mentioned earlier, matters can be complicated further since experiences that are traumatic for one person may not necessarily be traumatising to another. Describing these upsetting events as “small t” traumas should not imply the emotional impact of such events are insignificant compared to “Big T” traumas; to anyone experiencing these events, no “small t” trauma feels small. They may be more slippery to identify, however the emotional wounds can be as long lasting and deep-seated as any “Big T” trauma; I know that from personal experience.
It’s highly likely that most people reading this have endured many “small t” traumas in life, such as excessive teasing, being bullied, being left out (picture opposite), death of a family pet, losing childhood friends, witnessing parental conflict/separation/divorce, unresolved guilt, shame, lack of empathy from others, humiliation, failure, stress, unresolved guilt, physical illness, not feeling cared for……… you get the gist?
These are the daily hurts that happen to many of us that build up on top of each other over time. Eventually, exposed to enough “small t” traumas, they can be just as damaging as any “Big T” trauma. Needless to say, these built up mounds/mountains of “small t” traumas strongly influence the way people view and experience the world, their relationships with people and shape their ability to cope with life; often adversely affecting the individuals life more than would appear. For example, many “small t” traumas where someone has been teased and/or excluded by peers may leave someone with low self-esteem and the belief that you are not good enough/they don’t fit in/not lovable/likable…… In my experience, many find it challenging to connect the two without support, myself included.
“Much of dieting isn’t about the food, it’s about the emotional drivers that bring about those, often unconscious decisions we later regret and ask the question “why did I eat or buy that?”
My view, based on both personal and professional experience, is that both “Big T” and “small t” traumas deserve our attention and resolution. For most people, its untrue that time alone can heal these wounds; ignored they bring about imbalance to our, lives, health and relationships. Both “Big T” trauma and “small t” trauma are equally treatable, no matter when they occurred.