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Jun 242015
 

I read a very interesting article today about a study of our brains and how they process trauma, and then the memories of that trauma as well as other traumatic events, personal or otherwise.

Offenders/abusers inside our families do cause trauma to the members of those families, and those traumatic events go on to change the way we process future trauma.

The changes that traumatic events cause in our brain isn’t a new concept of course, but I thought this article was very enlightening.

What your brain looks like when you think you’re about to DIE: Scientists study minds of terrified passengers on Air Transat flight

  • In 2001, a crippled plane made a harrowing landing on a small island
  • The study found a single trauma such as this can heighten memories
  • Scans showed activity in areas of brain involved in emotional memory
  • Researchers say it can also skew perceptions years after the event
In applying this to myself, I look back on the melt down I had the last time I had to prepare for Patrick’s upcoming parole hearing, the previous damage to my brain I think made me more susceptible to the high  anxiety that parole protest evoked.
I’m glad to see science advancing enough to “see” inside our brains and for science to recognize that our emotions and even how we think can be  influenced by what has happened to us.
Here’s another interesting article on emotional trauma
http://www.rachelsvineyard.org/Downloads/Canada%20Conference%2008/TextOfBrainPP.pdf
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  6 Responses to “How trauma effects how we process trauma in the future”

  1. Article up

  2. Joyce, this is a terrific article!!!!! Thank you so much for posting this because most of us who have survived the trauma of an offending family member or loved one literally wonder if there’s something wrong with us because we seem unable to “get over it.”

    Speaking strictly from “behavioral sciences,” we know that continued traumas cause people to react in different ways, but similar patterns – if that makes any sense! The patterns become established and integral aspects of behaviors, and I know from my personal experiences that I never, ever, EVER expected anything but the worst possible outcome, regardless of what the situation was. This was part of what caused my constant meltdowns, even over the tiniest things – a wrong number, a car slowing as it passed my property, a cashier giving me **A Look.** All of these things were 100% inconsequential to my daily life, but each event (no matter HOW insignificant) became the Ultra Threat to me, on every level.

    Now that there is more evidence of brain structure and activity, this validates what I had experienced – yes, it was LEARNED, but the ***learning*** altered the structure and chemistry of my brain, over the years. Having typed that, it has taken some intensive counseling therapy and hard, focused work to UNDO some of that damage!

    Today……..I was thinking about this, just this morning……..today, I still have the disruptive life events because Life does, indeed, “happen” and there’s no such thing as a smooth path. There just isn’t. But, those potholes in my Life’s Path are no longer so daunting and insurmountable that I freeze, give up, and melt down. I’m finally able to move through these events in a more calm and centered way, and it is THE MOST liberating and comforting feeling I’ve ever had, bar none. To know that I can control my reactions and responses is tremendous.

    Excellent article, Joyce – thank you, so much!

  3. You are welcome, Truthy, you know with the fMRI and other objective scientific instruments, they are finding out that the structure and chemistry of the brain CAN be altered by trauma, and literally some brain cells and connections can be KILLED…and there is the aspect of what the brain was BEFORE the specific trauma. Especially in a child who was abused as the brain is actually FORMING after birth…or the child whose mother experiences repeated trauma while she is preg. ALL these things effect the brain, besides the DNA that the person started with at conception. LOST OF VARIABLES. But also lots of evidence now that trauma does effect the brain negatively.

    Yes, therapy and hard work can un do SOME of the damage, but I also realize that there are some changes that are LIFE LONG. But recognizing those changes and accepting them is IMPORTANT to healing any at all.

    After the plane crash my short term memory EVAPORATED…and has come back some in the 11 years since the plane crash that killed my husband, but I am still in the lower ranges of short term memory (as per a neuro psych test) and I grieved over that, worried over that, I WASN’T THE SAME. I now had to struggle to learn new things, forgot where my keys and glasses were, put pots on the stove and let the food burn, etc. But now I have accepted that I am not the SAME as before the crash. I ACCEPT that, and though I wish it wasn’t the way it is, accepting that I am different than before gives me peace with what IS.

  4. I got an e mail from a friend today discussing this very concept. After a life time of trauma and PTSD from her parents (her father is a serial killer and rapist who made the national news) She had a recent event that was very traumatic (a structure fire) and I had suggested she go for EMDR (rapid eye movement therapy) and she said she told her therapist that she felt like she had “puss pockets” in her brain.

    I thought that analogy was a very good one, as like an abscess anywhere in the body, in order to heal, we MUST excise and drain the corruption out of the abscess in order for it to heal. I think the abscesses we have from trauma will only get worse and worse with each new trauma if we don’t excise and drain away the corruption from the previous ones.

    And sometimes just like draining a boil on your ####, it hurts for a little while to do so, but in the end, it is the best “medicine” and therapy does help to locate and find the abscesses and then to drain them so they can heal.

    • Joyce, I agree with that analogy. I’ve actually used that visual for the past 20 years with regard to the first exspath, Victor.

      Dysfunction and trauma are exactly like a bacterial or viral infection. This emotional infection interferes with every function from thoughts, to beliefs, to actions, to physiological functions. Mind, body, spirit – it’s ALL connected and it ALL suffers when disorder, chaos, and dysfunction are deeply rooted.

      The infection of catastrophic thinking continues to grow and grow and grow until it takes on a life of its own. Trauma and catastrophic thinking actually become entities within our own heads, and they are each diseases that MUST be excised, drained, and cauterized. Events that occurred, abuses that were inflicted, and all of the rest CAUSE the emotional infections, and processing those events and feelings is part of that treatment – get it OUT of the head, onto paper or via the voice. Cry, rant, rave, punch a pillow, whatever……..but, get it OUT. And, then………follow up with “wound care” in the form of affirmative counseling.

      I’ve had MRSA on 2 occasions. The first one had me nearly dead and I have a scar on my abdomen the size of a tennis ball. I will always have that scar. The MRSA finally burst on the way to the emergency room, and I was in hospital for nearly a week on IV antibiotics, oral antibiotics, and wound care. But, the agony leading up to the rupture was indescribable. I was running a very high fever, the site of the MRSA was exquisitely painful, I was exhausted, and I was in a constant state of confusion from the fever. Once the rupture occurred, the infection drained and I was medicated for a long, long time and it STILL came back, though not as badly as it had the first time around.

      The whole point of this story is that emotional infection is much the same. I didn’t ever feel “good,” or calm. I was always hyper-vigilant and hyper-sensitive. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, as we say. Something “bad” was always coming, whether it was a storm, a bill, or a beating. Until I began processing my emotional infections, I was living in a terrible state of anxiety, denial, and martyrdom that NEVER produced anything positive. Once the emotions were opened up, they drained. Sometimes, they were released and processed in one big event, while other times they were coaxed out and processed over a few days.

      No matter how it’s accomplished, excising and draining those experiences, feelings, beliefs, and traumas is painful. But, you are 100% spot-on that life is BETTER when those things are attended to. If left alone, the outcome is grim. A life spent in bitterness, anger, rage, and fear is NOT how I want to exit, so I’m working on it every single day, and I realize that I carry emotional scars. But, I’ve learned that those are just scars. They don’t define who I am. Just where I’ve been. 😉

  5. Good points, Truthy! Once the scar is healed it doesn’t HURT any more in most cases. But until it is drained and excised the pain can be terrible, and like the MRSA can literally kill you.

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