Digging into the Biology of Trauma

Continuing in our understanding of the biology of trauma, trauma is anything that overwhelms the person’s normal ability to cope. Continuing in our understanding of the biology of trauma, trauma is anything that overwhelms the person’s normal ability to cope.  Inherent in that definition is the fact that you and I are different people with different pasts and perspectives.  I might be traumatized by a situation that you may not feel strongly effected by.  That doesn’t make one of us right and the other wrong.  It’s actually due to a variety of factors having to do with what we perceive as threat.

When we are traumatized, the brain can encode any of the sensory stimuli (sights, sounds, smells, emotions, even our own body sensations) as signs of life-or-death threat because it associates those experiences with the trauma in which we felt so significantly in danger.  Sometimes we are aware of those associations when they are reexperienced, but we may very well be unaware of them because the limbic system (the emotional center of the brain) sits deep inside the brain and right on top of the brain stem.  The same way we are unaware of our respiration, digestion, heartbeat and the like we can be just as unaware of our emotions turning from joyous to anger due to encountering a reminder of a past trauma.  When this happens, we can respond with a vehemence and intensity that disturbs even ourselves and, if this happens often, can leave us feeling broken, vulnerable and very different from others.

With this background, we can see that we are not our emotions, rather we have emotions.  Therefore, we can respond to our emotions rather than responding out of emotions because emotions are information.  So, we can take that information into account and yet we aren’t bound to respond as though it is Gospel truth.   Rather, we can account for the fact that it may be skewed.  We have emotions.  We are not our emotions.  They are important information, but only one source of information.  We can prudently pay attention to the information and take into account other information, as well.  The greatest information we have is that we are dearly beloved children of the Omnipotent, Omniscient, All-Loving God who is madly and passionately in love with us personally.  No matter what others have done to us and no matter what we have done He will us it – Scripture tells us He uses “ALL THINGS” for our good.

May the Lord give YOU peace!

 

Key words:  trauma, information, misinformation, emotions, limbic system

 

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