The Spectrum of Trauma, Part One

This week on The Allender Center Podcast, Dr. Dan Allender is launching a new series on the Spectrum of Trauma, engaging how the existence of seemingly small, daily experiences of harm fit into our broader understanding of trauma.

“Every loss, every goodbye, every fright, every moment of shame, is, to a degree, a traumatic experience in contrast to what we were meant to experience in Eden.”

This conversation was prompted by a recent article on The Allender Center’s blog, “Post Traumatic Single Disorder” by Abby Wong-Heffter. Abby wrote about the way her past relational pain manifests itself even in her current marriage to a man she loves, and the response was staggering. Thousands of people read Abby’s story, and while many responded with gratitude and emotional resonance, others expressed concern about how the use of the word “trauma” might belittle the experience of those who have endured the horrors of war and abuse.

Dan invites us to consider trauma as a spectrum, wondering how certain experiences might lead to the emotional, psychological, and physiological effects of trauma without necessarily fitting into our accepted categories of “capital T Trauma.”

When you remember significant events that brought you heartache, disruption, sorrow, shame, you will experience, in the present, something of the traumatic effect of what you felt when the event was going on years and years ago. The brain does not differentiate present and past.

For Dan, the reactions and questions following Abby’s article suggest that we need to spend more time talking about the harm that comes from thousands of small wounds, in addition to the harm that comes from more obviously devastating experiences.

“The more subtle, the more satanic. The more subtle, the harder it is to name as traumatic.”

Dan argues that we need to be able to hold both—the devastation of capital T Trauma and the slow, often unseen destruction of smaller traumas. As we continue this series on the spectrum of trauma, next week Dan will sit down with Abby Wong-Heffter to discuss her article and her own experiences in more detail. Then, in the final episode of this series, Dan will be joined by Dr. Angela Parker, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, to talk about a particular form of trauma: the daily, subtle microaggressions experienced by people who are marginalized and belittled by dominant culture.