Trauma is a toxic stress caused by bad experiences that sever the relationship between mind and body, having lasting effects on brain development and attachment and communication systems. Today I think that the profound traumatic experiences caused by the pandemic have impacted everyone, from seven to seventy, and that the records our bodies have kept in the last two years will affect our entire future if we don’t realize it. Trauma makes a behavioral change on the mind and body and rearranges perceptions. It affects not only how and what one thinks but at the same time the capacity to think. For normalization, the mind and body must learn to live in the present moment and that the danger has passed. Children who have a safe past, that is who grow up comfortably with the affection they receive from their parents, have a lifetime advantage. That’s precisely why I took a look at the “Body Keeps Score” and summarized it with examples. The goals of trauma therapy can be listed as reaching blocked sensory information, helping oneself for self-control and completing physical actions for self-protection when necessary. Now I think of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which I once studied, which is a method whose theoretical foundations are still controversial and which even the science of social psychology puts as a rival to positive psychology which focuses on human happiness. Let’s scrutinize (examine) it together.
You know from my articles that I am interested in the field of psychology. Recently, a friend of mine said, “Take a look at the book, The Body Keeps Score – it will certainly interest you.” I looked into the book; it was said to be “the best book ever written in the field of trauma.” It is packed with up-to-date information since it touches on trauma from a neuroscientific perspective. It was said that it interestingly presented the effectiveness of new approaches that could be used in the treatment of traumatic stress disorder, to the reader. It was stated that it was an alternative to the classical Freudian psychoanalytic and cognitive-behavioral methods and that it was a great pleasure to read. “It contains lots of real-life examples,” it said. The book has been on the psychology bestseller list since it hit the shelves in the US in 2015. Indeed, the book is based on a diagnosis and treatment approach that shows the importance of the interaction of the brain and body in coping with pain and loss as well as overcoming traumatic experiences and reconnecting with the real world. “The Body Keeps Score’ opposes the psychiatry approach based on existing drug recommendations. Instead of this approach, it goes back to the root of mental illnesses with neuroscience, which also makes use of today’s progressive imaging technologies. If you remember, in my “Dopamine Nation” article, I stated, based on ideas from that author, that drug treatments do not work in depression and that depression deepens at the end of the day. Dutch psychiatrist and author Bessel Van Der Kolk holds the same view.
The author defines trauma as toxic stress caused by bad experiences that sever the relationship between mind and body, with lasting effects on brain development and attachment and communication systems. The author explains that one doesn’t have to be a combatant or visit a war camp in Congo, Syria, to experience trauma. Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that one in five Americans had been sexually abused as a child, one in four has been beaten by their parents, leaving scars, and one in three couples has experienced physical violence. One in four families has alcoholism problems, and one in eight witnessed their mother being physically abused or beaten.
Traumatic experiences like these leave scars that last for generations. Author Van Der Kolk, a researcher at the Massachusetts Center for Mental Health, conducted a research with children aged
s six to eleven. The only difference between the comparative groups is the abuse children experienced within the family. A boy who received serious injuries as a result of his mother’s beating, a girl who was sexually abused by her father when she was four years old and two boys who were repeatedly tied to a chair and whipped! Even the most innocent images shown to these children during the research caused an intense perception of danger, aggression, sexual arousaland terror. The real problem is whether it is possible to support the brains and minds of these children, who have been treated cruelly, to redraw their inner maps and develop a sense of confidence in the future.
Looking at today, I think that the deeply traumatic experiences left by the pandemic had an impact on everyone, from age seven to seventy and that the records our bodies have kept in the last two years will affect our entire future if we do not realize it.
Traumatic experiences continue to affect our psychology, relationships, physiology, and immune system long after the time they were experienced and with the reminding slightest alarm signal, our brain circuits
, which are programmed with a malfunction are activated and cause us to secrete intense amounts of stress hormones. When individuals recall past events in which they had obsessive and intense deep emotions, their imaginations are stifled and they lose their psychic flexibility. However, imagination is a very important phenomenon for quality of life. It gives us the opportunity to visualize new possibilities, ignites creativity and enriches our relationships.
In summary, trauma makes a behavioral change on the mind and body and rearranges perceptions. It affects not only how and what one thinks but also the capacity to think. For normalization, the mind and body need to learn to live in the present moment and that the danger has passed. Children who have a safe past that is, who grow up comfortably with the affection they receive from their parents, have a lifetime advantage. They become “attuned” with their environment and the people around them and develop traits such as self-awareness, empathy, impulse control, and self-motivation that enable them to be participatory members of social culture.Children who feel insecure in infancy have trouble regulating their moods and emotional responses as they grow up. If we don’t have an inner sense of security, we have a hard time distinguishing between trust and danger. The author states that people with irregular attachment are getting prepared to be traumatized in later experiences. These words reminded me of what we went through during the pandemic. During this period, in addition to personal and family problems in terms of attachment, did we not have problems of attachment to the world and life?
Ideally, the stress hormone should respond to danger with lightning speed and then bring us back into balance. In patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), this balance cannot be achieved. The signals about “Fight, Flight, or Freeze” (*) continue even after the danger has passed
, and this panic situation causes serious damage to health in the long run. Van der Kolk comments on drugs: “They help people live in the moment rather than being trapped in the past. “However, drug therapy should be used as a complement to the entire treatment approach. The negative side of drug treatments is that the underlying causes are not investigated. Later on, the author explains with examples the increase in the use of depression drugs all over the world, including children. This treatment makes children more manageable and reduces their aggression. The most critical aspect of drug therapy is that it does not allow the individual to participate in his/her own healing process. However, humans have the ability to regulate their own physiology. The author continues that three new disciplines are making a big difference in the approach to trauma, abuse, and neglect:
1. Neuroscience (showing how the brain affects mental processes),
2. Developmental Psychopathology (examines the impact of negative experiences on the development of the mind and brain),
3. Interpersonal neurobiology (the study of how our behavior affects our emotions, our biology, and those around us).
These disciplines explain that trauma creates real changes in the brain, preventing individuals from living their normal lives
, and help to develop methods to mitigate and repair the damage caused by trauma. More importantly, these disciplines provide benefits for living in the present moment and continuing life successfully after a previous traumatic experience.
The author states that people who experience trauma cannot explain what happened to them, even years after. As their bodies relive fear, anger, and helplessness, the urge to fight or flee is rekindled
, but they are unable to express these feelings; she elaborates, providing evidence from the brain scan images: “People who experience trauma are trapped, unable to bring new experiences into their lives. These problems can occur as various physical symptoms along with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and other autoimmune diseases. The subcortical areas of the brain regulate our breathing, heartbeat, digestion, hormone release and immune system. However, these systems can lose control when faced with a perceived threat. This explains the cause of common physical problems identified in traumatized individuals. In summary, brain scan images show how persistent the fears of trauma survivors are and how easily physical symptoms are triggered. This points out that we should consider the entire organism, body, mind, and brain as a whole in trauma treatment.
Bessel Van Der Kolk then comes to a solution, saying that “there are three methods of treatment and one of them or all three together can be used in each patient,” she explains: “1. Top-down analysis by talking, communicating and allowing ourselves to understand what happened while processing memories of the trauma, 2. Taking drugs that stop inappropriate, false alarm responses or utilizing other technologies that alter the way the brain processes information. 3. It is a bottom-up method that allows the body to experience visceral experiences against helplessness, anger
, or collapse caused by trauma. The intense emotions of trauma do involve not only the mind but also the gut and heart. The body keeps score. If the memory of trauma is encoded in internal organs, autoimmune disorders, skeletal /muscle problems, radical changes should be made in therapeutic assumptions. Many treatment approaches to traumatic stress focus on reducing patients’ sensitivity to their past. Patients should be helped to live life to the fullest in the moment and stay in the present moment safely. Medicine does not cure trauma, only dull the expressions of impaired physiology. They do not provide permanent learning about self-regulation. They help control emotions and behavior but this comes at a cost because they inhibit the chemical systems that regulate motivation, pain and pleasure,” the author writes.
Now, if we start from a hypothetical example that I hear often:
Everyone, including his supervisor, refrained from Mr. Can
, who was a successful senior manager. Because, even in a meeting where he was given the right, he would definitely start a discussion , and as a result, there would be a lot of uneasiness and resentment for no reason at all. When the reason for this was looked into, it was discovered that it was based on a memory from high school years. He was in math class, had an open discussion with the teacher on solving a problem , and was proved right in front of the entire class, even getting a very good grade on the next exam. This incident was ingrained in his mind as ‘if you challenged the authority, you would eventually succeed.’ Who knows how proud he was of himself, what records his body had kept. Now, he would act outrageously throughout his life on issues that he was confident and was approved because he had learned this was a way to ensure his success. However, if he was aware of the situation, he wouldn’t really need it , and he would have a successful team around him that loves and appreciates him.
Later, he goes into the details and methods of psychological therapy, allowing the feelings of trauma to begin to be felt and the person to observe himself. However, the underlying is the change in the threat perception system of the brain. The challenge here is not to learn to accept the terrible things that have happened to the person but to overcome their inner perceptions and emotions. Perceiving what is happening internally and naming them is the first step to healing.
The trauma therapy goals were:
- Reaching sensory information that is frozen or blocked due to trauma,
- Helping the patient to control the energies that emerge as a result of internal experiences,
- Completing physical actions for self-protection when the patient is cornered by fear.
Now I think of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which I once studied, which is a method whose theoretical foundations are still controversial (2) and which even the science of social psychology puts as a rival to positive psychology
, which focuses on human happiness. The close connection between the functioning of our nervous system (neuro) and language abilities (linguistics) and the role of mental strategies that regulate and direct behaviors on the formation of verbal patterns form the basis of NLP (3). Let me tell you about my first NLP experience; It was years ago, I was looking for ways to increase my productivity. They have asked what I liked the most in my youth. It came to my mind that on the day I got my first driver’s license, I have driven my father’s car between Florya and Sirkeci six times on the Istanbul Coastal Road. Then, when I concentrated, I remembered the unique smell in the cars of that period, the feeling of the cool wind coming from the open window and relived the memory. It was awareness. Thus, it was possible to relive the happy moment. While actively remembering and reliving similar past memories, you can reprogram your actions and speeches by making up to date inferences.
According to NLP, language can parallel or even replace experience and actions in our other internal representational systems. As a result, talking about something is more effective than just reflecting our perceptions. This gives language a much more integral role in the processes of change and improvement.
According to NLP, we take new information about reality from life and add it to our own map, and this experience-based information is constantly filtered, i.e., distorted, deleted, or generalized. NLP prevents any event from being corrupted by judgment or interpretation with extremely simple practices; It allows us to re-experience the event in our memories in our minds. Thus, we can have more meaningful and richer responses. There are four stages at the heart of NLP: 1) Knowing what you want, 2) Taking action, 3) Learning to notice the results of our actions, 4) Being ready to change our behavior until we get the results we are after. (4)
Allow me to provide another minor example again:
Thank God I’m healthy today; I’m alive, but tomorrow the epidemic will spread.
Thank God I’m alive healthy
, and the epidemic will spread.
Even if the epidemic spreads tomorrow, today, I am healthy and alive.
In these three expressions, only the conjunctions but, and, can change the meaning. If you learn to frame your thought with “even if/though/so,” then you may be able to feel better and take the precautions to protect yourself better by being grateful that you are alive and you may not feel trapped. Obviously, NLP is a technique of learning to frame your thoughts in a positive way. Of course, it cannot be learned by a simple example such as the one I mentioned, but it is not difficult either.
If survival is what you want, you will immediately do whatever is necessary, you will be aware of the consequences of every action you take, and you will be ready to change your behavior and try new things until you achieve the “survival” result. Nowadays, they also call this “mindfulness”. In fact, journal-type diary books are published that try to make people aware of their behavior. (5). Of course, the author of the book, Bessel Van Der Kolk
, and other psychotherapists are among those who think that people cannot become aware of their behavior and therefore cannot change. What should we do? Is it best to let everything go and livethe moment or what?
On the contrary, realizing who is keeping the real “record”, surrendering to Him, and accepting what comes from Him, but of course, after doing our best and doing what makes sense …
I pray like this: O Lord, let my end, that you have decreed for me be good (good, beautiful) amen, and then I embrace my work.
Note: This article, which is open source, can be quoted by mentioning the author. No copyright is required.
(*)The fight, flight, or freeze response is how the body responds to perceived threats. It is involuntary and involves a number of physiological changes that help someone prepare to:
- fight, or take action to eliminate the danger
- flee, which involves escaping the danger
- freeze, which involves becoming immobile
Note: Note: This article is open source and can be cited by mentioning the author. No copyright required.