When we have experienced trauma our brains are wired to respond to the threat by fighting, fleeing, or freezing. In fact these responses can be seen in animals who are under threat, and are a way of surviving. For us, these responses harken back to a more primitive existence, where we lived in a world with ever present danger.
Neurologically speaking the amygdala, which is located in the temporal lobe of the brain helps to trigger the 'fight, flight, freeze' response, and takes over from our more logical 'thinking' brain, when our sense of survival is threatened.
If the threat is ever present then a person may form a complex attachment to their aggressor, where they try to placate or sooth. This could be an attempt to distill or lessen the attacks that are coming their way, and this response is called 'fawning'. With this response comes confusion and shame because instead of fleeing the situation, the instinct has been to submit and deny the abuse, in favour of pleasing the attacker.
Naturally our behaviour will be affected by this, and we may find ourselves stuck in an endless loop of fight, flight, freeze and fawn responses. Where others may react to minor threats relatively calmly, a person with PTSD will have a heightened awareness and almost expect a threat, where there may be none at all. This is a difficult process to work though, and requires understanding, patience, and a lack of judgement from the therapist. Trauma responses may be experienced in the following ways: -
- Anger outbursts
- Explosive behaviour
- Panic, anxiety, OCD
- Difficulty making decisions
- People pleasing
- Lack of identity
- Trouble with setting boundaries
Counselling can help to accept these responses as instinctive, human, and part of our survival. Becoming more aware of why we have responded thus is crucial in the journey towards acceptance and healing. click here to email me