Chronic Covert Trauma (CCT) is….

Trauma Myths and Trauma realities

Trauma is the wound caused when we are overwhelmed with terror and helplessness in a life threatening situation.

As adults we think of traumas as natural disasters or dramatic atrocities that leave us gasping. But trauma is a different story for infants and young children. They are vulnerable to another kind of trauma because they can’t survive on their own..

Helpless Human babies are vulnerable to subtle non-physical, attachment Chronic Covert Trauma

Because infants die unless someone takes care of them, they are hardwired for bonding to their mothers or to other primary caregivers, as you can see in this video of the “Still Face Experiment.”

Threats to these relationships register on infants’ bodies, minds, and spirits as threats to life itself. And so a jarring or missing connection between a baby and mother, like any life-threatening experience, can have a traumatic impact on a helpless baby.

Children’s primary relationships can be traumatized even when caregivers are well-intentioned and have love in their hearts. Sickness, economic hardship, social upheaval, spiritual poverty, government policy–any number of factors beyond a loving parent’s control can lead to traumatic ruptures or unattunements in a tiny child’s lifeline relationship.

Older children are also vulnerable to the cumulative effect of naCCT

How our bonding and attachment develops and operates creates a relationship base for our later development. With a strong, secure base, we can take later challenges in stride…


If unhealed infant attachment traumas have weakened our relationship base, we have deep insecurity and fewer resources as we grow up.


If we are insecure and have fewer resources, we are more like to be traumatically overwhelmed by challenges that might strengthen other, more securely attached children.

Just as “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer,” the traumatized get more traumatized.

Common ordinary developmental challenges and relationship stresses can lead to non-physical, attachment Chronic Covert Trauma (naCCT) in later childhood and adolescence

These later challenges include:

  • An unattuned or invalidating family environment
  • Shaming, dismissive responses to a child’s distress emotions, or no response at all
  • Rigidly perfectionistic, “over-civilized,” relentlessly cheerful families
  • Overly close, unwholesome parent-child bonds, such as “Daddy’s Girl”, “Mamma’s Boy,” or either parent’s “Best Buddy”
  • Unidentified (covert) learning disabilities, sensory processing disorders, vision or hearing problems
  • “Hand-Me-Down” traumas absorbed by a child’s mirror neurons from parents’ unhealed traumas (including their unhealed naCCTs).

Non-physical, attachment Chronic Covert Trauma:  at last there’s a name for the trauma that had no name

We need to talk about this, but it’s hard to talk about something that has no name. So I coined the term Chronic Covert Trauma (CCT) to help us talk about a kind of trauma that is:

  • Chronic, because it is ongoing, repetitive, and cumulative rather than a single event or set of events,
  • Covert, because it is so difficult to identify, and
  • Trauma, because
    1. it overwhelms the victim’s mental, physical and emotional resources at the time it occurs and
    2. it results in characteristic physical, mental, social and spiritual wounds that continue to cause pain and disability long afterwards.

To make the term more precise, I later added non-physical and attachment, to specify non-physical, attachment Chronic Covert Trauma (naCCT). It’s a lot of words and a long acronym, but a long, sort of clunky, precise name is better than no name at all.

Invalidation of the trauma is the final debilitating wound, the last link in the traumatic chain.

Not all trauma leads to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sometimes the trauma is acknowledged and repaired and no PTSD occurs.

But covert trauma often isn’t repaired. It remains covert: hidden and unacknowledged. The wounds then are not healed and the relationship rupture is not repaired.

Often, even when people notice the complications from the naCCT wound and tell someone about it, the person they tell invalidates them. This invalidation can be done by

  • minimizing and trivializing: “You aren’t going to let a little thing like that upset you, are you?”
  • contemptuous dismissal: “only a baby gets upset by that.” “you are just a crybaby.”
  • direct prohibition: “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
  • distracting and “jollying”: “think of something nice”, “let’s see the corners of your mouth turn up,”
  • or even by denial: “Your aunt would never say a thing like that; you are bad to make up lies.”

Finally, self-invalidation blocks all hope of healing

When we take in other people’s invalidating responses and make them our own, through what psychologists call introjection, or “identification with the aggressor,” or some other means, we start to invalidate ourselves.

Self-invalidation, the most pernicious form of invalidation, buries the wounds of non-physical attachment Chronic Covert Trauma so deep that no one even knows they are there.

Invalidating ourselves prevents us from even acknowledging that there is a wound that needs to be addressed. In fact, this self invalidation blocks the entire healing process.

But wait! There is hope for survivors of Chronic Covert Trauma

When we acknowledge the reality of Chronic Covert Trauma, we dignify the struggles of Chronic Covert Trauma survivors.

When we validate the real wounds of non-physical, attachment Chronic Covert Trauma as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms, we can use the healing tools and techniques that have been developed and used to heal overt blatant traumas.

And then the healing of non-physical, attachment Chronic Covert Trauma can begin.

6 thoughts on “Chronic Covert Trauma (CCT) is….

    • Thanks Ian. Your comment inspired me to post my CCT brochure here. I would be honored to have you share it with your therapy clients if you think it would help in your work with them. A brochure like that would have helped me when I started this project.


  1. This is very clear and healing Ricia. I hold the little child within me and assure her we will get through this now that we know the truth.


    • Thanks, Paula! Indeed, I do believe that little child is very comforted by knowing that our grownup selves know the truth, especially if we have been badgering ourselves into feeling there was something intrinsically defective about ourselves because we didn’t know the truth that these “little things” have a naturally traumatic impact on us.


  2. Hello Ricia. Thank you very much for this explanation & video about CCT. I know for a fact that I’m a candidate for healing this wound in myself. I identify with almost all items in your brochure. Also I found myself feeling extremely traumatized while watching the video, and getting tearful– for my own sake, as well as for the sake of the baby in the video. As well as noticing the detached observer in me that is programmed to deny my feelings.

    I happened onto your website via your posting on the SoulCollage Facilitator yahoo group, having trained as a facilitator a couple of years ago.

    What work do you do with people to help them with this wound?


    • Thanks so much for your share, Patricia. Everyone who shares builds awareness and community. We need that. A lot.That video is so moving, isn’t it? I love that the mom is so quick to repair the disconnection and tenderly soothe her little one. A role model for all of us in that respect. Soothe our inner Little Ones.

      About what to do….oh my. Reassure people that they aren’t crazy to be having this problem. Encourage them/myself/you to never, never, never give up. You are probably doing all the right things and worrying that it isn’t working because it’s taking a long time. It does take a long time, and every bit of healing, like doing SoulCollage(R) as you do, moves the healing along.

      Right now I’m not working with therapy clients, other than myself, my most challenging client. Partly because I am hard at work on a book to reach many more people. I’ll mull over whether I can put some of it here. Sometimes trying to shrink a long complicated process down gives the wrong impression, that it’s a short and simple process. When in fact it’s not. One tip: let yourself read books about healing trauma. A lot will apply to naCCT, even tho these non-physical, attachment CCTs are sometimes not included on the lists of “qualifying” events. Keep us posted.


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