Human beings grow well in an environment of love, care, attention, clear communication and appropriate challenge. It helps brains, nervous systems and therefore whole children to grow well. It is like growing plants – put toxins in the soil, reduce light and water, and hey presto, you have plants that are less than optimal.
In terms of neuroscience, we categorically know that humans grow well in an environment of love, care, attention, clear communication and appropriate challenge. Note that it is ‘appropriate challenge’, not trauma inducing ‘over-challenge’. More on that later.
A great read on this subject is a book called Why Love Matters, by Sue Gerhardt, which dives deeper into the science of this.
Adverse childhood conditions of abuse, neglect and developmental trauma creates an inner neurochemical environment of ‘stress’. The mediator of long term stress like this is Cortisol.
Cortisol stops young brains and nervous systems growing in a healthy and optimal way and stops adult brains functioning in an optimal way. To grow a healthy and optimal human being, we grow healthy and optimal nervous systems in healthy and optimal bodies.
Cortisol prevents myelination (the laying down of fatty sheaths around neurons) of the rapid transit neurons between different parts of the brain. This means different parts of the brain are less able to communicate effectively. It also affects mitochondria and therefore the creation and movement of the molecules that make and transport energy in the brain.
Appropriate challenge is great – it is character building. Abuse, neglect and developmental trauma creates sub-optimal human beings who then struggle in life with the neurological patterns created.
These patterns manifest as emotional states such as fear, shame, rage and guilt and are manifested in the physical body, through emotions that can be difficult to communicate, low self-worth, cognitive patterns such as limiting beliefs about one-self and what is possible in the world, personal and interpersonal values and in interpersonal relationship.
Our work through the four pillars of Embody Evolution – conscious breathwork, embodied awareness, meditative depth and relational intelligence, is to enable each individual who has experienced this kind of trauma to deconstruct these patterns, rebuild self-worth, create emotional intelligence and freedom, build values that serve them in a positive way, construct healthy beliefs and ultimately, cultivate a healthy body and mind.
Brain structure and function can change.
This is neuroplasticity, and as the brain and function changes, the way a person experiences life, feels about themselves and behaves in the world, also changes.
Imagine if the emotional aspects of brain function cannot effectively communicate with the executive planning and reasoning centres.
Imagine if the neural webs that define who we are as ‘self’ and how and who the ‘others’ out there in the world are – grown in a soup of adversity, complex neglect and abuse.
Who would you be?
What would others look like?
What kind of relationships might be ‘normal’ for you?
What kind of narratives or stories would go through your mind, as they do, to define and explain to yourself how the world works, what you are worth?
What kind of roles do people occupy? Perpetrators and victims?
What kind of relationships might people think of as ‘normal’ when their nervous systems are grown in a soup of adversity, complex neglect and abuse?
How might these dynamics manifest in the world in terms of complex difficult relational behaviours?
In terms of neural function, the ‘trigger happy’ watchdog of the brain, the amygdala is overactive, rapidly spiralling traumatised individuals into reflexive patterns of fight, flight, freeze or flop. In these triggered states there is no access to rationality, no option for choice. Reflexive patterns rule.
Children and young adults who are abused, neglected, ignored and denied reflective self-creation are more likely to end up:-
- With mental health issues
- In the criminal justice system as perpetrators
- In need of ongoing social services intervention
- In gang cultures
- As victims of abuse and gang culture
- Being trafficked
- In addiction
Longer term, the neurological element of breaking the cycle of trauma is to eliminate adverse childhood dynamics at a societal level, and reduce the sub-optimal brain function and human experience they create.
However, once someone has suffered as a victim of abuse and/or neglect and this traumatic experience is patterned and embodied, then rehabilitative work is required to enable them to rebuild self-worth, emotional freedom, values, healthy beliefs, a healthy body and mind and a life of joy and positive relationships.
The neurological elements of moving from simply Surviving to totally Thriving include…
- Soothe the trauma responses
- Eliminate the triggers to traumatic response
- Find a deep sense of inner peace
- Rebuild a healthy and optimal sense of identity
- Retrain the emotional and cognitive brain functions into more optimal wellbeing
- Find emotional freedom from fear, shame and guilt
- Find greater joy, peace, happiness
- Free the physical patterns that are the physical correlates of the trauma
- Make the body a safe place to be
- Find new purpose
- Find true potential
- Find empowerment
Find meaningful contribution to the global collective through work, play and human engagement
- Find reward in what they offer to the world
It is good to remember that perpetrators were also, or are also victims. Whilst perpetrating abuse, most will have been abused at some point in their development. Abusing others is not freedom, it is being caught in a cycle of behaviour that dishonours the human condition.
Perpetrators suffer from damage to their empathic systems and need help to access empathy and care.
Part of our work is to facilitate this.
One of the key elements we can offer is the creation of safety. Yet each person is unique in what they require to feel safe. It takes time for people to feel safe. Safety is also a relational experience.
In part two of this blog, I will explore practices that can help to transform trauma.
For now, if you are suffering from trauma related stress, if you need support or guidance or help of any kind, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with me. You can book in a 1-2-1, which is free for the first 20 minutes (then £90ph).
You can also try out the free 30 day trial for my Embody Evolution Membership – check out all the fabulous perks of joining this wonderful community here.