Trauma on the Brain

Wednesday’s therapy was different to any other. For the first time, I didn’t mention my parents or the trauma associated with them. This wasn’t intentional, but something about therapy has shifted.

When I started therapy, I had this preconceived idea of what I needed to do to heal and “let go” of past trauma. I was prepared to trawl through each traumatic memory to find that ultimate closure.

There have been times when I’ve asked why it seems impossible to let go of past trauma.th92J6TV3B I tried so hard to overcome the darkness by conquering materialistic achievements, but every so often, the trauma would jump out from nowhere and consume the person I had worked so hard to become. Past trauma always seemed to return to the here and now.

I am not knocking mindfulness practices because a large proportion of therapy is about the present moment and applying the self-discipline necessary to exert changes. However, when we supress trauma, even in a positive way, those emotions can fester, often on an unconscious level.  Eventually the rot begins to infect all the other things we introduce to life. Striking a balance between processing past trauma and practising mindfulness is my idea of effective therapy.

thHPKJDMQ0It got me thinking about how we process trauma in the brain. Experience tells me it’s entirely different from every day memories and even some of the most hurtful experiences in our lives. We can work hard, practice mindfulness, and make everything as comfortable as possible, but unless we “heal” from that trauma, it has the potential to periodically cause a reaction within our brain.

I always write hands-on experiences of mental health rather than anything based on research. If you would like to read about how trauma is processed in the brain, you might find the two posts by fellow-blogger, Heather, helpful. Here is the link to the first post.

http://heathershelpers.org/2015/01/26/the-neurobiology-of-trauma-how-ptsd-begins/

How do we heal from our past trauma? I imagine everyone is different and maybe a lot depends on the stage you are at in life, the trauma you suffered, the severity, and maybe even the duration. My own experience is that trauma seems to have consumed the memories of all the other good things that happened in childhood and it can feel impossible to see past it.

When I was at the heart of avoidance and did not dare to look at the source of the trauma, I envisaged a hellhole of a childhood, with little positive. That is slowly starting to change. I find that I don’t necessarily need to talk about each and every one of those traumaticthSYXXJWSA experiences, but there is something powerfully healing from observing the actual feelings. While this is horrendously difficult to do, in my experience, it does start to set us free from the trauma.

Things are slowly changing, more than likely something is occurring in the brain and my emotional development. I am beginning to view things slightly differently. Somehow, the people of the past or their dastardly deeds are no longer pivotal to my healing. My recovery is becoming more about me rather than the things people did to me. Now, that is a shift in perspective.

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25 thoughts on “Trauma on the Brain

  1. kat

    i agree, at some point, the healing and processing of those traumatic memories finally shifts to about us, instead of them and what they did. you actually put a name, a face, on the change i have noticed in myself and in therapy lately. i too am finally letting go, starting to be happy (without faking) and being derailed by the past much less often. Congrats to you on this shift…you have hung in there and are earning the rewards.

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  2. Priceless Joy

    I have known you for a little over a year now. Although we didn’t know each other very well to begin with (putting that aside), from my point of view, you have been like a caterpillar coming out of the cocoon and into becoming a butterfly. I have started seeing the “real” Cat. A happy, cheerful, humorous, and light hearted person. I feel honored to have been and to be on that journey with you. I have an enormous amount of respect for you Cat.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Victoria… as I thought my way through that post last week I came looking on your blog a couple of times for your post about child brain development… looking forward to that post.

      Thank you for commenting, I am chuffed you liked the post 😉

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  3. mandy smith

    I like to think our brains transform along with us–or wait–maybe they transform first. Whatever, I know something takes place when we begin believing in ourselves and do “the work”. You, Cat, have been doing the work, I witness it in your posts. Your progress has been amazing, my friend!

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  4. A Million Thoughts

    This is something I am about to start dealing with. It is very hard and I am afraid but ultimately it will be worth being free from trauma in this respect

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    1. Cat Post author

      Obviously, not everyone is the same, but I actually found, yes, it is enormously difficult to face it, but maybe the actual facing it isn’t as difficult as I envisaged. I wish you all the best in your journey.
      Thank you for reading and commenting 😉

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  5. merbear74

    It’s been close to 30 years since I saw my dad die and I don’t think I will ever fully recover from it. I’ve been to therapy for years and that was always the main trauma in my life.

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    1. Cat Post author

      I have been lucky in life not to face death f someone close as an adult. All my family, small as they are, are still alive and in many ways, I have no idea what grief is… unless you count my little kitty’s 😉 I used to always blame myself for not “moving on.” If you have time, check out the link to the blog post about trauma on the brain. I found it very enlightening and it’s no wonder we have problems letting go of the trauma

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  6. martha0stout

    This is some of the best news I’ve read this morning. I’m glad that you’re finally able to focus on the you part of therapy instead of the ‘what they did to me’ part. I know that it’s likely there will still be moments of the latter, but the fact that there are more moments of the former has always been a good sign for me.

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    1. Cat Post author

      It feels good, Martha. In a lot of ways, therapy is just beginning. For me – I think/I hope – the worst part is over. I imagine there will be occasional moments of the “latter,” but maybe from a different, less traumatic, angle. I’m pleased you’re pleased 😉 Hope you’re well.

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  7. Susan Irene Fox

    Cat, I’m thrilled to read this. This seems to be at the heart of every survivor – seeing things through a different perspective. I think these shifts don’t generally happen in giant, earthquake movements but as you said, as water erodes rock. The outer protective layers fall away and we begin to perceive a way of thinking that is healthy, that uplifts us, and that surrounds us in light instead of darkness. Bravo, and great work.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Susan… very good to hear from you. You’re right, those shifts is perspective happen in little bits, it is probably all we could handle, anyway…. all the same, they are pretty awesome! Thank you for your words of support and encouragement.

      How are you?

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