The Bad News
Our psychological traumas, often connected to experiences of being bullied, abandoned, ridiculed, abused and similarly upsetting situations, are located in deep seated primitive emotional areas of the brain.
As such they are programmed into a part of our psyche that is separate from our rational faculties. (This is the case whether the trauma is from your own lived experiences or whether they are inherited epigenetically/passed down from parents.)
It follows that these traumas may be hard to address and change in normal conversation and standard psychotherapeutic discourse. We simply don’t have access.
They mostly linger unnoticed in the depth of your psyche and once triggered (when the current circumstances gives associations to the original traumatic situations), they may override your rational faculties and bring you into anachronistic, deeply painful emotions and provoke dysfunctional behaviours.
I once helped a senior consultant who would get into heated arguments with his CEO. One day he explains that he noticed that he clenched his but cheeks when arguing with him. He recalled that he used to do exactly that when expecting a beating by his abusive stepfather. The disagreements he would have with his CEO apparently reminded him of arguing with his stepdad, and triggering these traumatic experiences it made him irrationally angry, argumentative and basically prepared for a fight.
The Good News
To change this function of his personality we performed imagery exercises back in time, in which he was helped to feel like a child again in a traumatic situation with his stepfather. In these images he was coaxed to visualise and re-author the trauma. He saw himself reason with his stepfather and went on to imagine how his stepfather developed enough sense to not beat him like he did. After that session he could still get angry when dealing with authorities but he would not raise his voice and escalate situations again. He had become capable of choosing a more rational, healthy adult mode of functioning. The traumatic memory of him and his stepfather’s relationship had in essence been re-authored. Therefore it had lost some its strength.
The fact is, that as our psychological traumas are stored in primitive brain parts, they are not truly connected to a rational sense of time. (That is exactly why these emotional states may still feel so very real – as if the traumatic situation is still occurring emotionally speaking, many years later.) Therefore these memories are also amenable to change. We can literally via structured experiential exercises with the remembered trauma make your primitive brain believe that the traumatic situation happened differently by purposefully refashioning the situation. In other words: We can “tell it” that you weren’t abandoned, beaten, abused, bullied or that you at least stood you ground and said what you believed to be right and wrong in the midst of the traumatic situation.
Sounds too good to be true?
This phenomenon is actually a fundament for at least four traditional psychotherapeutic paradigms: Gestalt therapy, Schema therapy, SE therapy and newer versions of cognitive behavioural therapy.
Take a hold of me if you need “reprogramming”. Become master of your own house. Don’t let a bad past run on repeat.
Not everything is said and done about managing traumas in this short piece. It was meant to communicate a fascinating aspect of traumas and their healing that is not widely known. I hope you enjoyed the article and it has given you an insight you didn’t have 3 minutes ago. Like, comment and follow this page for more insights into our psychological machinery.