You are likely thinking that if you experienced trauma you would know it right? Some people are familiar with PTSD, also known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many people think of PTSD related to a single significant event that happens in one’s life, such as being a combat veteran in a war, being a victim of a physical or sexual assault, or surviving a natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina. However, many people do not know that many more of us experience several traumas through our lives that shape how we see the world and approach our relationships. This is often referred to as big T -trauma vs little t -trauma.
One of the most significant childhood traumas is a missing or inconsistent parent. How many of us were raised by a grandma or auntie until your mom ‘got it together’? Or did you ever wonder if you had ‘daddy issues’ because you remember the disappointment of your dad promising to pick you up & never came? These experiences often contribute to what we call attachment issues. Having an understanding of one’s attachment style or how ‘securely attached’ one is to their early childhood caregivers often influences how we expect others in our lives to meet our emotional needs. We must also consider other experiences such as a substance abusing or incarcerated parent, witnessing parents’ domestic violence, or even multiple moves or bullying during childhood.
Many of these circumstances in and of themselves do not mean someone will develop PTSD. But experiencing more than one, especially at a critical developmental stage may. This is referred to as development trauma, which occurs through relationships with those we are supposed to trust such as a parent or other family member. As a result, we often develop unhealthy relationship patterns such as codependence, perfectionism, or other more complicated personality disorders & attachment issues. For many of us as Black women it may appear to others that we are more difficult to get along with, angry, ‘crazy’, or that we have ‘baggage’. But many of us are dealing with some unresolved trauma or complex PTSD. Such experiences can cause significant interpersonal conflict with family, dating, friendships, and even the workplace.
If you are concerned this may describe your experience some initial strategies include reading more information to understand more about trauma. Also writing about your experiences can help, which may include a journal or a letter to anyone who may have hurt you in your past. But most importantly, opening the door to these memories can be painful so establishing a relationship with a licensed and trauma-informed counselor or therapist is crucial to helping you understand what you have been through in a safe manner.