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What is “Soft Trauma”?


There are two kinds of trauma.  Both are devastating to your mind, body, and soul.

The trauma everyone is familiar with is “hard trauma.”  That would be a natural disaster, war, or personal injury, like a car accident.  This type of trauma is almost always physical. 

“Soft trauma” is prolonged physiological or emotional abuse.  All forms of abuse fall into this category (child abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, narcissistic relationships, domestic abuse, etc.).  

The physical evidence of soft trauma is usually delayed.  It can take weeks, months, or years to manifest in physical form.  However, the effect of soft trauma on the body is just as devastating as hard trauma.  It simply appears in a different form, like chronic pain, mental illness, allergies, cancer, and a host of serious or life-threatening illnesses.  

Soft trauma is what you and I struggle with every day.  To recover from soft trauma, you must restore peace to your mind, body, soul, and spirit.  That’s why I talk so much about self-care, self-love, and self-compassion.  Trauma and abuse devastate every part of you.  Learning how to love and care for yourself through a daily self-care regime is how you begin the healing process.  

We all know firsthand the power of soft trauma.  It overwhelms you with its constant slam-dunk impact.  You feel hopeless.  You feel stuck.  You think you have no options.  Because you feel totally and completely powerless, you disconnect from your body and heart to survive it.  

Healing from trauma forces you to connect again and feel all these emotions on a level that’s excruciatingly painful at times.  Yes, healing can get very dark and messy.  

But it was in this painful darkness where I found myself again.  And you will, too.  In the darkness you find your power, your strengths, and your authentic self.  As you move through the darkness you’ll eventually find your heart, and that’s when you begin to fall in love with yourself.  

Trauma may have knocked you down.  But it can’t keep you down once you start your healing journey.  Continue moving forward.  The darkness won’t last forever.  And the Light is more glorious than you could have ever imagined.  You’re closer to it than you think!


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I don't like this distinction because the research is clear that some "hard" stuff is less impactful on some people than others. And so is some "soft" stuff. and some "soft" stuff is way more impactful than some "hard" stuff.  I think this is a false dichotomy and inaccurate to boot.

The NCTSN talks about this in terms of event trauma -- the automobile accident, natural disaster -- and complex trauma. But the fact is that most people experience one or more adverse childhood experiences -- the "soft" or "complex" trauma -- that can exacerbate healing from event trauma, which also has an obvious emotional component. The point of ACEs science is that the more types of trauma (and this includes racism, bullying, involvement with the foster care system, involvement with the medical and psychiatric systems, attending zero-tolerance schools, etc.) and the fewer resilience factors, the higher the risk of behavior and/or health consequences. Also the point of the resilience research part of ACEs science is that trauma-informed and resilience-building practices can heal....the brain is plastic, the body wants to heal.

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