Trauma in the most unlikely of places 

‘Trauma’ is a word that we normally associate with experiencing a major and horrifying event such as a car accident, an armed robbery, a kidnapping or experiencing war. Going through such an experience can be debilitating and the road to recovery can be a difficult process.

As a psychologist in clinical practice, I am often intrigued that commonly it can be the more subtle experiences that can also leave their mark on an individual’s psyche. How often do we acknowledge that we feel trauma after experiencing humiliation or from making an embarrassing mistake or taking to heart harmful words spoken by someone whose opinion matters to us? In reality it can sometimes be situations that we may perceive as innocuous that can cause us a level of trauma. It’s common that emotional traumas can be just as debilitating to a person’s psychological wellbeing as their physical counterparts.

The amydala, an almond shaped brain structure located within the temporal lobe of the brain is working overtime when we experience a threat in our environment. It works in conjunction with our hippocampus to render us fearful again when we are reminded of a situation that originally traumatised us. Imagine hypothetically, if we were confronted by a grisly bear on a Sydney street (ok, possibly extremely geographically unlikely, but a good example nonetheless!) we might become extremely fearful and provided we survived the encounter we may become a little uneasy when confronted with something that reminded us of a bear in the future. Our amydala works well.

In a similar vain, if somebody poked fun at us when we stood in front of the class in primary school, we may start to tremble and go red when asked to speak in a meeting at work, and commonly we may not know why. A skilled psychologist can often help you pin point those traumas that we may perceive to be benign but leave a lasting impression on us. After all, why be held back from achieving your life’s goals by a trauma found in the most unlikely of places