"The Body Keeps Score" by Bessel Van Der Kolk M.D. is the most comprehensive book I have read about the affects of childhood trauma on our lives. And, how the medical community is in the learning stages of how to effectively deal with adult children of abuse.
I am listening to this book, but ordered the hard copy to use as a reference.
Here is about the brain and trauma... This is long but so insightful as to what happens in the brain.
"SHIFTING TO ONE SIDE OF THE BRAIN"
The scans also revealed that during flashbacks, our subjects' brains lit up only on the right side. Today there's a huge body of scientific and popular literature about the difference between the right and left brain. Back in the early nineties I had heard that some people had begun to divide the world between left-brainers (rational, logical people) and right-brainers (the intuitive, artistic ones), but I hadn't paid much attention to this idea. However, our scans clearly showed that images of past trauma activate the right hemisphere of the brain and deactivate the left."
"We now know that the two halves of the brain do speak different languages. The right is intuitive, emotional, visual, spatial, and tactual, and the left is linguistic, sequential and analytical. While the left half o the brain does all the talking, the right half of the brain carries the music of the experience. It communicates through facial expressions and body language and by making sounds of love and sorrow: by singing, swearing, crying, dancing, or mimicking. The right brain is the first to develop in the womb, and it carries nonverbal communication between mother and infants. We know the left hemisphere has come online when children start to understand language and learn how to speak. this enables them to name things, compare them, understand their interrelations, and begin to communicate their own unique, subjective experiences to others."
"The left and right sids of the brain also process the imprints of the past in dramatically different ways. The left brain remembers facts, statistics, and vocabulary of events. We call on it to explain our experiences and put them in order. The right brain stores memories of sound, touch, smell, and the emotions they evoke. It reacts automatically to voices, facial features, and gestures and places experienced in the past. What it recalls feels like intuitive truth - the way things are. Even as we enumerate a loved ones virtues to a friend, our feelings may be more deeply stirred by how her face recalls the aunt we loved at age four."
"Under ordinary circumstances the two sides of the brain work together more or less smoothly, even in people who might be said to favor one side over the other. However, having one side or the other shut down, even temporarily, or having one side cut off entirely (as sometimes happened in early brain surgery) is disabling."
Deactivation of the left hemisphere has a direct impact on the capacity to organize experience into logical sequences and to translate our shifting feelings and perceptions into words. Without sequencing we can't identify cause and effect, grasp the long-rem effects of our actions, or create coherent plans for the future. People who are very upset sometimes say they are "losing their minds." In technical terms they are experiencing the loss of the executive functioning."
"When something reminds traumatized people of the past, their right brain reacts as if the traumatic event were happening in the present. But because their left brain is not working very well, they may not be aware that they are reexperiencing and reenacting the past - they are just furious, terrified, enraged, ashamed, or frozen. After the emotional storm passes, they may look for something or somebody to blame for it. They behaved the way they did because you were ten minutes late, or because you burned the potatoes, or because you "never listens to me." Of course, most of us have done this from time to time, but when we cool down, we hopefully can admit our mistake. Trauma interferes with this kind of awareness, and over time our research demonstrated why."
"STUCK IN FLIGHT OR FIGHT"
"What happened to Marsha in the scanner gradually started to make sense. Thirteen years after her tragedy we had activated the sensations - the sounds and images from the accident - that were still stored in her memory. When these sensations came to the surface, they activated her alarm system, which caused her to react as if she were back in the hospital being told that her daughter had died. The passage of thirteen years was erased. Her sharply increased heart rate and blood pressure reading reflected her physiological state of frantic alarm."
"Adrenaline is one of the hormones that are critical to help us fight back or flee in the face of danger. Increased adrenaline was responsible for our participants' dramatic rise in heart rate and blood pressure while listening to their trauma narrative. Under normal conditions people react to a threat with a temporary increase in their stress hormones. As soon as the threat is over, the hormones dissipate and the body returns to normal. The stress hormones of traumatized people, in contrast, takes much longer to return to baseline, and spike quickly and disproportionately in response to mildly stressful stimuli. The insidious effects of constantly elevated stress hormones include memory and attention problems, irritability, and sleep disorders. They also contribute to many long-term healthy issues, depending on which body system is most vulnerable in a particular individual."
"We now know that there is another possible response to threat, which our scans are't capable of measuring. Some people simply go into denial. Their bodies register threat, but their conscious minds go on as if nothing has happened. However, even though the mind may learn to ignore the messages from the emotional brain, the alarm system signals don't stop. The emotional brain keeps working, and stress hormones keep sending signals to the muscles to tense for action or immobilize and collapse. The physical effects on the organs go on unabated until they demand notice when they are expressed as illness. Medications, drugs, and alcohol can also temporarily dull or obliterate unbearable sensations and feelings. But the body continues to keep score...."
He goes on to say further on:
"For a hundred years or more, every textbook of psychology and psychotherapy has advised that some method of taking about distressful feelings can resolve them. However, as we've seen, the experience of trauma itself gets in the way of doing that. No matter how much insight and understand we develop, the rational brain is impotent to talk the emotional brain out of its own reality. I am continually impressed by how difficult it is for people who have gone through the unspeakable to convey the essence of their experience. It is so much easier to talk about what has been done to them, to tell a story of victimization and revenge - than to notice, feel, and put into words the reality of their internal experience."
"Our scans reveal how their dread persisted and could be triggered by multiple aspects of daily experience. They had not integrated their experience into the ongoing stream of their life. They continued to be "there" and did not know how to be "here" - fully alive in the present." Bessel
What we call mental illness, often is the affects of living through a traumatic childhood. Our brains are literally affected - while our bodies truly keep score.
I highly suggest listening to this book, if you want to understand your own traumatization or that of someone you love. This book makes complete sense to me and how inept our medical system is to help us navigate through our affects of early childhood trauma!
Often the diagnosis isn't childhood trauma, but the effects of it.
How our body responds and not the cause of it. We often treat the symptoms but not the cause. And, how do we treat childhood trauma, compared to how we treat depression???
I love this book on so many levels!
Incredible information - The Body Keeps Score! What an amazing human body we live in!