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Lego, Duplo, & Trauma

Lego & Duplo blocks to depict trauma

Let’s talk about TRAUMA and the uselessness in trying to compare your trauma to somebody else’s. 

So often I hear people try to dismiss their own experience, “Yeah, but…it could have been worse.” Or “Yeah, but, at least I didn’t XYZ.” Somebody else has it worse.

But here’s the thing - Distress is distress and our bodies don’t quantify the level of just how bad it really was when we go into fight, flight, freeze, or fawn responses. 

When sh*% feels bad, it’s bad. And it can leave you with lasting emotional, physical, or somatic distress. 


Big T vs. little t traumas

In the therapy world, the terms "big T" and "little t" trauma are often used to differentiate between different types or severities of traumatic experiences and their impact on individuals.

Big T trauma refers to major, significant, or severe traumatic events that typically involve direct threat to life, serious injury, or extreme psychological distress. 

Examples of big T traumas include:

  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Combat experiences
  • Natural disasters
  • Severe accidents
  • Witnessing violence or death

These experiences often have profound and lasting effects on individuals and can result in conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health issues.

Little t trauma, on the other hand, refers to less severe or chronic stressful experiences that may not involve direct threat to life but still have a significant impact on an individual's well-being and mental health over time.

Examples of little t traumas include:

  • Emotional neglect or abuse
  • Bullying
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Divorce or family conflict
  • Chronic illness or medical issues

While these experiences may not be as immediately life-threatening or catastrophic as big T traumas, they can still lead to emotional distress, difficulty coping, and the development of mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression.

It's important to note that the distinction between big T and little t trauma is not always clear-cut, and individual responses to traumatic experiences can vary widely. 

Additionally, what may be considered a little t trauma for one person could be experienced as a big T trauma for another, depending on factors such as personal resilience, support systems, and past experiences. 

Both types of trauma can have significant impacts on mental health and well-being, and it’s worth processing them regardless of how big or small they may feel. 


What's Lego got to do with trauma?

Recently, in a session with a client, we used an analogy involving Lego blocks to discuss why the many “minor” incidents she experienced throughout her life were worth processing. 

While none were considered a big T trauma (the Duplo block), she had several incidents (represented by the smaller Lego blocks), which, overtime, built up to equal an experience every bit as heavy and impactful as the Duplo. 

I love this visual representation. (And, as you can see, I went home and built it.) 


All trauma is worth processing!

The next time you question whether your experience is considered traumatic and wonder if it’s “bad enough” to necessitate help, instead, ask yourself, “Am I ready to fully heal from this experience?” 

If the answer is yes, consider some type of somatic therapy, which goes beyond talk therapy to help you access and process memory that is stored at cellular level in the body.  

I use EMDR. To learn more about EMDR, visit and download the free resource.