Two types of trauma are described in the Life Model – Type B trauma is the kind we usually think about and involves the bad things that happen like war, rape, assault, child molesting and emotional abuse. Type A trauma is often referred to as “neglect” but the absence of the basic necessities in our lives produces traumatic effects of its own. Type A traumas include malnutrition, abandonment, insecure bonds and a lack of joy in the home.
Type A trauma during childhood builds a weakened control center in the brain. Without proper stimulation the structures and capacities needed for a stable personality do not develop. The resulting weak mind is far more vulnerable to being traumatized by events that would not crush a normal or robust mind. This lack of capacity greatly reduces the focus, stability, productivity and capacity to learn for that individual. Instead, the person is susceptible to fearful or aggressive reactions instead of goal-directed responses.
Type A trauma always produces damage. Bad things that happen sometimes produce trauma and other times they do not. This has made it very hard to produce a list of bad things that will always lead to conditions like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or dissociation. We will look at what it takes for intense events to produce trauma in a moment, but we first need to observe that when someone does not receive the things they need it always produces weakness and damage. If you grow up without enough calcium or enough joy, as two examples, your body will not develop properly and this damage will produce vulnerabilities, deficits and malfunctions.
Type B trauma is what happens any time your brain’s control center gets overloaded (see limited capacity.) We all have a limit to our capacity to endure overwhelming events and the emotions they produce. When the intensity of an emotion even becomes stronger than our capacity and there is no one to help us bear it the brain shuts off the higher cortical regions of the control center and goes first into terror and then to parasympathetic shut down as the back of the brain tries desperately to survive.
Bad things that happen to us do not always produce trauma, if a person has the strength to experience the pain they suffer but without being traumatized. What traumatizes a poorly grown brain is often handled by a well-developed control center in another person’s mind. The stronger mind will be able to quiet itself, stay in relationship and act like him or herself in the face of the pain levels. Suffering well is the alternative to being traumatized that comes as we grow our capacities.