How Understanding Brain Biology Helps Us HealBy Sylvia Poareo
September 11, 2014
A personal example illustrating how our brain is impacted by trauma and why this awareness is helpful. As well as, how Inner Bonding helps us to calm our brain and heal these patterns!
How understanding brain biology helps us...
So much changes when we understand what happens in the brain when we are overwhelmed, stressed, and triggered. This summer, while swimming in the warm, gentle waves of Maui's Kamaole Beach, I came to a stretch where there were no swimmers ahead of me. Instantly the thought raced through my mind, "Oh no, there could be a shark here!" My arms and legs began to tremble, my chest got tight and my heart beat like crazy. I turned back quickly, even though I knew the thought was probably ‘irrational'. In the moment, I had shifted into fight/flight/freeze and there was no logic to be had.
This is the kind of thing that happens all the time to anyone in this day and age where we are all slightly traumatized by the incessant fear and sensation driven media that distorts our perception of the dangers around us. And it is something that happens even more frequently when we have experienced significant traumas in our life. My husband has seen Jaws and enough other scary shark stories to have the thought cross his mind. But I knew his less traumatized brain would never consider a shark in the shallow, populated stretch we were in, nor would he freeze up in terror. The brain of those with trauma has imprinted ideas like, "bad things happen all the time" because they in fact, did in our formative life. So in layman terms, paths are developed in the brain in the way that any road that is tread often, becomes entrenched. Soon enough, that road is all you see and when lost, it is where you go.
So in any situation where we feel stressed, disoriented or overwhelmed it is particularly easy to slide right into the familiar path of fear. Step two of Inner Bonding addresses this by explicitly helping us recognize when we are triggered into fight/flight/freeze, and gently reminding us to return to love, courage and faith, opening to learning with curiosity and compassion for ourselves and the good reasons we have for being triggered.
What helps us to get off the ‘low road' as Daniel Siegel calls it, is reinforcing our connection to all the ways we are safe and well. Step 3 and 4 of Inner Bonding offer a road map for this. Tuning into my soul, I recognized and honored the good reasons for my fear and all the ‘bad things happening' that would naturally lead to this ‘irrational' fear. And I brought in the truth from my spiritual guidance/intuition that I was in fact safe and that it would actually be good for me to push forward and keep swimming next time. In fact, that this was necessary to repattern my brain, creating a new ‘higher road' of truth that my brain could return to.
So that is what I did. The next day, I returned to the same balmy water with mellow waves and swam in the same the direction. Again, my heart began beating faster, my limbs trembled, but I pushed on. The cool water splashing my face, thump, thump, my heart in my throat, the smooth water surrounding my body , my head questioning my every move, my breath returning to normal, my trembling arms stretching out over and over.... back and forth I went, until it sank in....there was no shark. I was safe. It still felt awkward, but as I breathed into this safety, I could feel my cells repattern and the trembling diminish.
In fact, there are many moments in each day, where something triggers our traumatized brain and the personal history that caused it; a boss yells, a partner doesn't return a phone call, a child slaps his sibling, and we think "Shark!!!" Our brain goes down the low road that was forged when truly scary things were happening and we think it is going to be just like it was.
Only now, we are adults. We have so many more options and ways to create our own safety. When we practice Inner Bonding, connecting to our Guidance and asking for help about what is truly loving, we naturally help our brain to calm down, shifting out of fear and into healing. Sometimes we go out for a swim and glide into a new possibility, or tune into Guidance and remember that we can take care of ourselves in the face of whatever ‘shark' seems to be looming, and sometimes, if the fears are very deep, we need extra support to forge these new roads gently with time.
Understanding what is happening in the brain helps us to know that there is nothing wrong with us, we are not broken and there is no need for self-judgment. There are simply stuck places whenever there is trauma, but they do loosen, open up and shift with love and self-presence.
And as we unpeel these layers of trauma, we return to the lightness, peace, creativity, inner connection and bright self expression that we are meant to experience. Our brain is resilient. We are resilient. And there is so much hope!
(To learn more about how Sylvia can support you with Inner Bonding through sessions, support groups and Intensives ,visit www.connectingwithin.com)
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Today, ask yourself throughout the day, "What does my inner child need from me as a loving Adult to feel safe in interactions with people? Does my child need me to not take rejection personally? Does my child need me to stay strong in my truth and not give myself up to anyone?" Focus today on creating a safe inner space for your inner child to feel connected with others.
By Dr. Margaret Paul