Your brain is more unique than your fingerprints, remember?
It builds new connections between brain cells your entire life. Then it weaves them into networks, constructing and reconstructing itself.
Sometimes it overreacts, making lightning-fast decisions based on obsolete data. The past becomes suddenly the present, and once more the pain overwhelms you, as if that horrible event was happening right now.
When helping you to cope with trauma, your brain can get stuck in survival mode.
And when that happens, so are you.
Do you want to enjoy life?
There are ways to do that, but first, let me take you into a traumatized brain. The journey will help you to understand what you need to do and why.
Trauma Changes it All
Your brain – the way it’s organized and the way it functions – is the result of your life experiences.
If your childhood was an endless flow of unconditioned love and fun, your brain is well integrated. And when all your brain parts are working smoothly together, you’re well off. Whatever challenges life may throw your way, you’re prepared to cope.
Find a lot of exciting stuff about the human brain here.
But if your childhood was a succession of abuse, neglect or other adverse experiences, your brain may be working quite differently. Because trauma changes the neurobiology of the entire nervous system, including the brain.
But like not all traumas are the same, no brains on trauma are the same.Click To Tweet
“After trauma, the world is experienced with a different nervous system.” Dr. Bessel van der Kolk.
1. Trauma may occur during different time spans in childhood or adolescence, meaning it affects different stages of your brain’s development and integration.
2. Exposure to a single horrifying event, like an earthquake or a terrorist attack, isn’t the same as exposure to prolonged, repeated cruelty that a child can’t escape.
3. Your ability to cope with trauma depends on the amount of loving support you had (or didn’t have) before or during that traumatic event.
Now, let’s focus on an adult with a history of developmental trauma that occurred early in her life, while her brain was still developing.
How the Body Reacts to Excessive Stress?
When you experience intense emotions, a part of your brain called the limbic system fires up. The amygdala – two small glands inside your limbic brain – “smells” danger and starts the alarm.
Your body immediately shoots stress hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol, out into your bloodstream.
Adrenalin makes you ready for fight or flight.
Cortisol is a real stress hormone. It can block the activity of the hippocampus – a part of the brain that integrates memories by relating new inputs to the past.
In a non-traumatized person, stress hormones will decrease as soon as the stressful situation is over.
But for a traumatized person the story is different.
It will take her system longer to return to a normal level of functioning. In addition, she will react to milder stimuli, and her stress hormones will spike faster.
Too much cortisol in the bloodstream for too long has the potential to do damage – especially for a developing brain that works hard at building new connections between the nerve cells. What cortisol does is inhibit this growth of new networks, behaving as a neurotoxin inside a developing brain.
But that’s not all.
A prolonged secretion of cortisol can also kill existing neurons and destroy connections between them.
How is the Traumatized Brain Different?
Three areas of the brain are most affected by trauma, according to neuroscience.
First of all, trauma blocks the integrative role of the hippocampus. It prohibits pieces of the memory from joining together into a meaningful narrative. What you’re left with are fragments, like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle on your desk.
It makes sense for the flashback phenomenon, doesn’t it?
Two other areas of the brain seriously affected by trauma are the corpus callosum and the prefrontal cortex.
All three are either not growing well or become damaged, depending on the timing of developmental trauma.
The corpus callosum, or the bridge of the brain, connects its right and left sides. In a traumatized brain it isn’t working properly, which results in less coordination and cooperation between these very different parts of the brain.
And what about the prefrontal cortex?
The prefrontal cortex is the area right behind your forehead that gives you an overview from a higher level of what’s going on and makes a judgment.
It also links the cortex to the limbic area, the brainstem, and to the body. It stands for the executive functions and directly involved in cultivating of good relationships with other people.
A Few Other Facts
Trauma shuts off the Broca’s area of the brain that has with language to do. It makes it hard for a traumatized person to express herself verbally.
Abuse and neglect in childhood show also in smaller volumes of white matter in different areas of an adult brain. In addition, the myelin coating that helps electrical impulses to travel faster is thinner in many nerve fibers.
Chronic stress and trauma can, therefore, weaken the brain’s ability to learn and remember.
Dissociation, one of the common trauma symptoms, means that the brain literally becomes fragmented. The areas that used to be linked are no longer linked. What used to be integrated becomes disintegrated.The main thing about the brain on trauma is lack of coordination between different parts of the brain. Click To Tweet
Want to learn more, click here.
Can We Inherit Trauma?
The epigenetic changes are another layer of changes that can occur in adults with a history of developmental trauma.
Traumatic experiences can change epigenetic molecules. That means that all these changes caused by trauma become stable and inheritable. They can be passed to the next generations.
And they alter your ability to respond to stress.
Interested in this topic?
Comment below or send me an email, and I will write more about epigenetics for you.
Go For Harmony
You cannot undo what happened to you in your earlier life, but you can deal with the scars of trauma.
To take back ownership of your mind and body, you have to restore the proper balance between the rational and emotional brains, or between the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system.
To achieve that, you must truly know who you are. You must be able to feel and interpret your physical sensations and respond accordingly with your actions.
Here’re a few suggestions on where to start:
1. Learn to breathe calmly to achieve a state of a relative physical relaxation. (link)
2. Practice mindfulness and meditation.
3. Try yoga – a combination of breathing, meditation/mindfulness, and stretches/postures practices.
4. Listen to pleasant music. Besides increasing your emotional wellbeing, it will improve your memory and concentration, information processing speed, reasoning, and attention.
5. Dance and sing to your favorite music. Never mind how it looks – the crazier, the better, so have fun!
6. Use your body for activities that make you feel good: go for a walk, go for a swim, or go to fitness.
7. Connect with other people – call a friend, help someone you don’t know, or let a person you love hug you tight.
What else do you enjoy?
Find what works for you and do it again, and again, and again … until new connections in your brain are built.Every tiny change you make today will grow to become a huge improvement in the future.Click To Tweet
Enjoy Your Life Now
Your brain is not damaged in the way it can be damaged by a stroke. It’s maybe weirdly wired, that’s all.
It hasn’t lost its capacity to change, and it can be rewired in a healthier way. All these changes are reversible.
Finding a good trauma therapist often is a wise step. But there are things you can do on your own to help your brain to recover.Even with trauma in your rucksack, life doesn’t have to be torture.Click To Tweet
The sense of aliveness, vitality, and joy promotes healing from trauma, according to Peter Levine, Ph.D.
And I agree.
Help your brain to recover.
Never give up.
Let me know how it goes.
Let me know what you think in the comments below, or send me an email, or a message. Visit my Facebook page. And if you enjoyed this article, share it with your friends. Thank you!
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