In this article, we’ll discuss how the brain responds to trauma and how to recover after a traumatic experience. This will help us on the path to creating new neural pathways. If you or a loved one has experienced trauma, we want you to grow and not be defined by it.
The first part of trauma steams from a “threat.” When someone feels threatened, adrenaline kicks in through the sympathetic nervous system. Now in “high alert,” the person can focus only on the situation right in front of him or her. Hunger, fatigue, and pain can all be ignored when under threat. The usual response to threat is extreme fear or anger. In her book, “Trauma and Recovery,” Judith Herman writes, “These changes in arousal, attention, perception, and emotion are normal, adaptive reactions. They mobilize the threatened person for strenuous action, either in battle or in flight.”
Yet, when we are not in battle, we can still experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Herman explains it this way: “Traumatic reactions occur when action is of no avail. When neither resistance nor escape is possible, the human system of self-defense becomes overwhelmed and disorganized.” PTSD, a term once used only for war veterans, is now applied to trauma. PTSD can affect children, men, and women. Symptoms vary, but it is important to recognize PTSD so that one can get help.
We’ve heard, “time heals all wounds.” This is not the case for trauma. The lingering effects of a traumatic experience continue through the mind and body and can encourage PTSD symptoms and unhealthy behaviors.
Those who have had a traumatic experience may act differently than others: what feels threatening to one may not feel threatening to those who haven’t experienced trauma. Especially when the environment is similar to the originating traumatic event, emotional responses take over. The brain pathway takes over and they fire the same past response. Herman writes: “Traumatic events produce profound and lasting changes in psychological arousal, emotion, cognition, and memory.”
These brain pathways are created during and following traumatic events. These affect our thinking, how we handle our emotions, and how we respond to events outside of our control. Through these engrained pathways, it’s easy to form unhealthy responses to stress and conflict. To heal, we must learn healthy ways to cope with trauma, and learn how to create new neural pathways so we can grow in appropriate responses, even under stress.
Christian Counseling for Trauma Recovery
One way to grow in health and rewire traumatic neural pathways is through counseling. Our brains are powerful and we often protect ourselves from memories of harm. A traumatized person may experience emotion in their bodies without even remembering the event. They also could remember an event in detail but cut themselves off from feeling. A Professional Christian counselor in Spokane provides a safe space to help make those connections and begin recovery.
If you have had a traumatic experience, you most likely live with many painful symptoms, such as anger, depression, anxiety, or an inability to form close connections with others. You might feel isolated and unable to speak to what happened or to express your feelings. Christian counseling can help you make sense of your feelings and offer you hope for healing. You do not have to live under the dark cloud of trauma. There is freedom for you. There is hope.
“Rush,” courtesy of Austin Neill, unsplash.com, Public Domain License; “Reflect,” courtesy of Meiying Ng, unsplash.com, Public Domain License