Posts Tagged ‘neuro-pathways’

trauma1sm

How Do Disturbing Events  Effect Thoughts, Feelings, and Memories?

The brain is constantly gathering filtering and storing information.  Some of this information is explicit (it is intentionally and consciously being processed, and accessible ) and some of the information is implicit (it is unconsciously gathered, and inaccessible) .  Most of the information it receives gets resolved and integrated as it processes through the mind.

Trauma information – shock, upset, or highly charged disturbances – is processed differently.   When life-threatening experiences, or experiences that physiologically set off stress hormones,  hit the brain, the normal processing channels are shut down and ‘trauma processing’ takes over.   The body goes into survival mode.   When this happens, the left (logical and explicit) brain shuts down and the information streaming through the senses is captured by the right (implicit, creative) brain with the worst of it (most traumatic) being stored in the lower regions of the brain.

The body/mind goes into fight, flight or freeze mode.

The problem is that after the disturbance stops the brain carries the memories of the disturbance long into the future.   Those memories are associated with disturbing images, unpleasant angry, sad, or fearful emotions, anxious body sensations and disparaging thoughts about the self.  They are stored in the amygdala and hippocampus as hardened, fractured memories .  These memories have no sense of time,  order,  or space, so that when triggered the memories are experienced as if they are happening in the present.  These memories are stuck  in the limbic brain and while they are hard to get rid of they are easily triggered and they get replayed over-and-over.   Because they are locked in the implicit memory,  there is usually little or no awareness of what is happening; that is,  the feelings seem to come from no where, they make no sense,  and they have no sense of  being from the past.  Even with awareness, there  is a disconnect between what the sufferer knows to be true and the emotions or thoughts that accompany situations that unknowingly trigger reactions to the disturbing events.

To add to the problem, these stored mal-adaptive memories may get connected to other more adaptive neuro-pathways.  So that when the traumatic memory is triggered by images,  emotions, and  body feelings, smells, or sounds,  the brain associates these triggers with the traumatic memory  and everyday activities, sleep, and relationships become hijacked by the fight, flight, or freeze mode.   Once  hijacked, the brain is no longer thinking logically.

‘Talking-about-experiences’ helps but all too often it doesn’t  do enough.  Prescription drugs such as anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications can help you cope with symptoms even though they don’t solve the underlying problem.    Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to help but  on an explicit level.

Illegal drugs and alcohol can seem to help but they merely masks symptoms, which slowly over time can become debilitating.  EMDR is the most effective at processing trauma on all levels.

How does EMDR work?

What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for “Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing”    It is a well-researched and highly developed way to work with people who have experienced disturbing events in their lives that disrupt their emotions,  thoughts and memories.

With EMDR, the therapist works with the client to access the disturbances and reawaken the images, emotions, body sensations and negative feelings about the self.   Bi-lateral stimulation (eye movements or tapping) are used to allow the brain to re-process the stored emotions, negative thoughts, images and body sensations.  When that happens, the brain has a way of re-encoding the trauma information and it becomes resolved and integrated; which means,  the disturbing memories and information is no longer emotionally charged.   The facts, memories, and reactions to the trauma can be accessed while the  unpleasant feelings, body sensations, negative thoughts, anxiety, fear,  and depression that were once associated with the experience are desensitized.

    trauma7xsm amen