Our bodies and minds are intrinsically designed to heal.
When you break your leg,
if everything is working as it should,
if you are able to rest,
and get the nutrition you need,
generally the bone heals.
If, however, you break your leg badly and do not have it reset,
it will not heal properly and you may lose some function.
You may live with a limp for the rest of your life.
We seem to understand this with regard to physical health and rarely hesitate to seek help when our physical bodies don’t seem to be healing as they should.
Unfortunately, we often give our mental health the short end of the stick, not realizing our minds sometimes also need help to heal.
Our minds sometimes need help to heal
Our minds are designed, under good and reasonable operating conditions, to be able to cope with the daily ups and downs that go with being human. Sometimes, however, things happen which may overwhelm our basic ability to cope.
These traumatic events may occur in a single moment (capital "T" trauma: for example a car accident, or an assault) or over a prolonged period of time (lower case "t" trauma such as neglect or abuse by parents or caregivers, or long term relational discord with an abusive partner). These incidents can be overwhelming, and may at times be too much for our brains to appropriately process and store in memory.
In these cases, parts of our brain go “offline” as our more primitive brain does what it does best: Survive.
When our more primitive brain is coping with an overwhelming event, our higher functioning prefrontal cortex is set aside. There’s no time to consider various options or plan a strategy (that’s what our prefrontal cortex is great at!) Instead, in order to survive, our basic instinctual options are limited to fight, flight, or freeze.
At those times, the events we experience are not recorded in our memory in a manner that is adaptive, accessible and functioning.
This can leave us with incorrect ideas about ourselves, how safe we are in the world, and how safe relationships are in general.
This hijacked process can leave us with ideas that aren’t accurate or helpful later on.
With children, in particular, the prefrontal cortex is not nearly as highly developed as it is for adults. In addition, to children the world is a huge and sometimes frightening place.
What matters is not what someone else might perceive in terms of an unsafe situation…what matters is what the individual experiencing the unsafe situation perceives. And to a small child, a lot more of life is a matter of survival: a life and death threat.
What may not seem overwhelming to an adult, can be completely overwhelming for a child.
The good news is that like our bodies, our minds are designed to heal.
With the support of a trained counselor we can work though our past traumatic experiences and allow healing and growth to occur.
If you are struggling with past events, traumas with either a lower case “t” or capital “T,” don’t hold back. Reach out for professional help.
Give your brain the same opportunity to heal that you give the rest of your body.