MELINDA SHARPE LCSW 300 St Wallingford CT 06492 US +1.203-284-0238 firstname.lastname@example.org
In the area of healing, our whole world is becoming more aware of the role that trauma plays in causing suffering that tends to persist. Work with combat veterans has increased our knowledge about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and we have come to realize that many people in everyday life suffer from this condition due to trauma experienced in the course of their lives. These traumas may be due to an accident, loss, grief, illness, or for others it is caused by violent acts, bullying, domestic violence or sexual abuse or assault. For young children growing up in a household affected by violence or unpredictability, developmental PTSD can deeply affect the child's identity and responses to relationships and the environment. Once PTSD is present, it is accompanied by anxiety and depression that many people attempt to medicate themselves, leading to the development of addictions and dependencies.
What happens when people experience trauma? And what are the most effective treatments?
When we experience loss, injury, abuse, violence or threat, our brains respond with a reaction which is designed to maximize our chances of survival. In that process. the threat center of the brain takes command and directs the body's nervous system's reactions and methods of coping with whatever the threat might be. This part of our brains is very similar to that of other mammals, and responds very much the same way, with fight, flight or freeze.The cognitive and creative parts of our brains which are more developed in humans, go off-line to a great extent, while these survival responses take over within us. Higher thinking goes offline temporarily while an almost automatic survival strategy takes over, often without our even feeling as if we chose it. Once this response is activated, it operates as if it has or is a mind of its own.
We humans feel more comfortable feeling we are in control of our reactions, but when it comes to threat, the threat center of the brain has its own strategy based on thousands of years of survival experiences from our ancestors. Sometimes we can witness this behavior in us, but it doesn't even feel like us because we haven't really "chosen it". Evolution did.
What happens next is even more interesting. Now that this part of the brain is aware of encountering the threat, it becomes sensitive to it, and is now on the look out for similar threats everywhere. They call this a negativity bias. Our ancestors discovered that by being cautious in avoiding threat, we had a better chance of surviving. You can see the wisdom of thiswhen it involves massive physical threat. But this same mechanism reacts to vaguely similar situations as if they were as dangerous as an initial past threat. This is what we see in someone who had a car accident on a major highway and now is too afraid to drive on any highways. His or her brain's threat center is trying to keep her alive, but at the expense of her feeling comfortable enough to use major roadways.
How does this impact healing trauma? Because the part of the brain that handles threat and the part of the brain that thinks things over, makes plans, etc, are separated in function and location. they do not communicate well. It is as if the threat center trumps every argument the cognitive brain comes up with, an this is all by design. Your brain is doing exactly what it evolved to do. The problem is, the brain gets stuck repeating fears from the past and warning us not to get near those, rather than helping us move through the fears and feel safe now that the threat is past.
The work of therapy for healing trauma it in resetting this switch by calming that threat center with a language it can understand. Then the stage is set for the individual to experience their own feelings and thoughts and make friends with these. And then it becomes possible to once again build a sense of confidence in oneself again. Many experiences using the body and body centered therapies help.
I use a number of approaches to healing trauma that help the threatened brain to calm down and for the individual to regain a sense of safety and confidence. You will see some references to this on the mindfulness pass as well as the Matrix Reimprinting with EFT page. These therapies allow communication within the brain itself enables the individual to work out strategies for healing that actually work for him or her. We use EFT tapping guided imagery, body-centered witnessing of emotion, mindfulness and breathing practices to calm the anxious brain.