There is exciting research happening in the last decade on neuroscience and the workings of the human brain. We are discovering new ways of understanding how trauma resides within our memories and how it plays out in our everyday life, over and over again, as if the trauma experience is on a painful loop.
Figuring out exactly what happens in our brains when we have a traumatic event has been a universal challenge. The part of the brain we’re interested in here is called the Amygdala, the part that processes our strong emotions like fear, anxiety and anger. It’s kind of like a Department of Homeland Security. It scans all the sensory information that’s coming to us, millions of bits of information through sight, hearing, touch, all of our senses. And it’s scanning that information for a whisper of something that could be dangerous or a real threat that we need to get away from as fast as we can.
It’s remembering threats from the past, and it’s ready to react within less than one tenth of a second. It receives incoming data through the senses and is ready to manifest a flight, fight or freeze reaction to defend ourselves against a potential hazard.
Painful and frightening experiences of the past can show up as stress in our lives which can trigger anxiety (flight), aggression (fight) and helplessness (freeze) or other debilitating problems.