The word trauma is a fashionable way of talking about suffering, and I find discussing trauma to be accurate and meaningful at many points. At the same time, I think that the word conjures defenses that make it hard to see suffering and pain, two words I prefer using when I’m trying to nuance the various ways people hurt.
Trauma should probably be diagnosed. It should be investigated in the body and the background with care, attentiveness, and skill. To assign something as traumatic brings an entire mechanism of treatment. As it should.
However, the skill and patience required to accurately say something is a trauma isn’t always necessary to call something painful. Sometimes addressing pain is a quicker focus. Plus, pain (or suffering) is always a part of trauma.
Whenever you talk of these three–trauma, suffering, or pain–there’s pain. So, querying your pain is a way to be healed even as trying to diagnose whether you’ve been traumatized. Where you hurt is an indication of where you need healing. You can call it trauma if that’s discerned. Or you can say you’re suffering or struggling or in pain.
I find this a help to me as I pray about my own pain. I know where I hurt and I try to survey that with God. God knows where I’ve been traumatized and God surveys that with me. I’m more skilled with what I know hurts, and God is more skilled (and patient and attentive) to the other things I don’t always yet know.
These distinctions are very helpful, especially when it comes to walking alongside someone as they/we participate in the healing process.