Trauma is often defined in terms of little t trauma and big T trauma, or soft and hard trauma. This definition of trauma is event dependent. It is looking from the outside in, instead of from the inside out. In my experience it is not the event itself that is significant in terms of defining what is traumatic, but how we experienced and resolved the event or events. Trauma is an individual experience and how we respond and resolve it, is unique to us, our situation, our age and available resources. Any experience that remains unresolved or unexperienced can lead to trauma.
Trauma is in the nervous system, not the event ~ Peter Levine
There are many ways an experience can remain unresolved. If we have ever felt helpless, powerless or like our survival was at stake, then the experience, whatever it was, was potentially traumatic for us. We can be deeply hurt and wounded (the word trauma comes from Greek and literally means wound), physically, sexually and psychologically, by something or someone and if we can't process the hurt, trauma can result. If we freeze and are unable, for whatever reason, to discharge the freeze response this also creates trauma in our system. The traumatic experience can then be triggered or re-enacted over and over again until resolution is found. If subsequent freeze responses are not discharged and compounded pain is not resolved, an enormous strain is put on our system and our resilience becomes severely depleted.
One of the most devastating and insidious traumas is the ongoing experience of feeling unloved and unwanted, which usually starts in the womb. When a baby feels unloved and unwanted, it can be experienced as a real threat to their survival and can result in feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. The wounds of feeling unloved go very deep and often remain unexperienced or frozen just because they are so unbearably painful. The imprint of these wounds will be played out and re-enacted in all sorts of different ways in order to resolve them. We're always looking for resolution, we need resolution.
If the essential need for love is not met, babies learn to mistrust and deny all of their needs, because if they are not worthy of being loved, they are not worthy of having their needs met. When traumatic imprints are laid down as early as our time in the womb, freezing can often become the habitual response when we feel threatened later in life because of lowered resilience. Our threshold to assimilate life's stresses is affected by unresolved trauma, we become hyper vigilant, feel unsafe, we dissociate, feel anxious and depressed, we do whatever helps us to sedate and keep our pain repressed.
Trauma: unexperienced experience ~ Ivor Browne