UNDERSTANDING BODY TRAUMA

Trauma may be stored in the body at any time a stressor that threatens safety.  Some people experience headaches, stomach aches, fatigue, increased or decreased appetite, insomnia, body pain, or other symptoms without realizing that these symptoms are linked to something they are experiencing or have experienced in the past.  For some cultures, shame and stigma keep people from acknowledging stress and mental health challenges, but medical problems are acceptable.  This kind of pain does not have to last forever.  

 

We can better understand trauma by highlighting the brain.  The limbic system is the feeling center of the brain.  It regulates automatic responses to emotional material and subsequent behavior. Areas of the brain to highlight are the Amygdala, Thalamus, Hippocampus, and Prefrontal Cortex.  The amygdala is the warning system of the brain that alerts fear.  It gets triggered when it is reminded of fears they have experienced in the past.  Paying attention to the signals of the amygdala allow us to notice the brain and body connections to our past that are keeping us from the lives that we desire. 

The Hippocampus is where memories of episodes and events occurs.  It is also involved with learning and memory.

The Thalamus gets the input of all of your senses and puts them all together.  When triggered, the thalamus can’t hold each of the senses so images, sensations, thoughts, smells, sounds and other senses live in separate chunks, like individual files on your computer, rather than part of an integrated whole.  We need to quiet the thalamus in order to be able to reduce our reactivity to situations that may be innocuous to anyone else without trauma.  It is important to be able to be quiet in oneself to learn to tolerate the reactions and sensations.  

The Prefrontal Cortex sorts what we should pay attention to or prioritize.  When someone has experienced trauma, the priority is survival.  That means that it may be difficult to learn new information, concentrate, have caring emotions for loved ones, or connect.  The medial prefrontal cortex helps look at self-experience.  For someone with trauma who is triggered, this may make someone more reactive because everyone starts looking like a predator.

 

Calomiris Counseling believes in the healing power of your brain and body and maximizes your own neuroplasticity so that you can heal yourself.  It does not mean that we will erase your past; rather, we make a new relationship to your past by interrupting your brain’s way of doing things to increase your new potential. 

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

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Readings

The Deepest Well:  Healing the Long-term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris, MD

The Polyvagal Theory:  Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication Self-Regulation by Stephen W. Porges

 

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van der Kolk, MD

 

Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel J. Siegel, MD and Mary Hartzell, Med

The Neurobiology of “WE”  by Daniel J. Siegel MD

 

Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce Perry, MD, PhD and Maia Szalavitz

 

Change Your Brain Change Your Life by Daniel G. Amen

 

It Didn’t Start with You:  How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes who we are and

How to End the Cycle by Mark Wolynn

 

Child Disrupted:  How your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How you can Heal by Donna Jackson Nakazawa

 

Getting Past Your Past:  Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EDR Therapy by Francine Shapiro, PhD

 

Running on Empty:  Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect by Jonice Webb, PhD with Christine Musello, PsyD