We have already seen in other articles that I have posted on this site that significant and protracted childhood trauma can physically damage the developing brain and have an adverse effect upon the body’s physiology as a whole. In particular, it can:
– effect the way that the prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus interact
which, in turn, can:
– lead to massive over-production of stress hormones in the body such as cortisol
which results in:
a constant state of feeling under threat, extreme vulnerability, agitation, anxiety, fear and even (and I can confirm this from my own unhappy experienced) terror.
Because of these physical brain changes and the accompanying alteration in the body’s biology, any dysfunctional behaviours they lead to, such as disproportionately violent responses to perceived threat (to take just one example from myriad possible others), are very hard to change because of their physical underpinnings in the brain. This leads to repetitive dysfunctional behaviour that persists because it is so hard to unlearn.
This is why people affected in this way may frustrate those closest to them by their greatly diminished capacity to learn from experience.
In effect, the childhood trauma has re-programed the brain in a particularly unhelpful manner.
Damage to other areas of the brain caused by prolonged childhood trauma also frequently lead to a sense if being ‘unreal‘, ‘cut off from reality’, ‘living life behind a thick pane of glass’, and ’emotionally dead inside’, unable to feel anything remotely positive (also known as anhedonia), including loss of feeling towards previously close ones.
It is the brain’s neuroplasticity that allows this damage to occur. However, the brain’s neuroplasticity may also be exploited to reverse the adverse effects our childhood trauma has had on our brains.
Exploiting Neuroplasticity To Repair The Damage To Our Brains Caused By Our Childhood Trauma:
Three main ways we can reverse this damage done to our brains may include the following:
– learning about how our childhoods have affected, on a very deep level, what we feel, how we think and behave, and how we act eg. through bibliotherapy – thus helping us to process our trauma
– undertaking experiences that make us feel safe, cared for, relaxed and loved and that make us feel these things on as deep a level as possible, as often as possible (just as the brain can be harmed by negative experience, so, too, may it be healed through positive experience eg. meditation and mindfulness).
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).