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The Promise

Your One Promise

The one promise that I want you to keep is this… Take action. That’s it. I will be here to provide you with all the information, resources, and tools that you need but the one thing I can’t do is make you do something about it. That one’s on you. Just know that nothing will change for you until you are actively making changes for yourself. Don’t get me wrong, things will most assuredly change. They always do. Things may even change for the better, but it won’t touch the suffering that you’re experiencing. That kind of change requires your active participation.

Today is the first day of your new life.

Claim it. It’s yours and you deserve it. Right now you might not believe that you deserve it, but I believe that you do. I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done. The only thing that matters to me is that you want something different for yourself. As long as you want it then I want it for you. I’m going to be here to help you in every way that I know how to ensure that you get it.

Before you get started on taking any action, I’d like to share with you some information. What follows may seem daunting. I know it’s a lot to take in, but it’s crucial to your evolution. You need to understand what is happening, and why. You will use this knowledge as a foundation to rebuild yourself upon. So I insist that you read through everything I have to say. Don’t worry if you can’t get through it all at once. It took me way more than just one session at my keyboard to get it all out, and just as many years of reading and research to put all the pieces together. Separately, each piece might not seem to be significant. Yet, the story can not be told or understood without all of the parts in their place and serving their purpose.

It might serve you better to not read it in one session. In fact, I recommend digesting the contents of this page in blocks. That way you can sit with it for a minute. Let it roll around in your head and bounce it off of other people. Do some detective work and discover the depth of meaning and truth each piece holds.

Change is a process and part of this process is waking you up.

Part of the problem is that you’ve been operating on autopilot. You’ve incorporated myths, misconceptions, and outright lies into your subconscious mindset and worldviews. You’ve accepted falsity and deception as the true nature of reality. You’ve made decisions based on these falsehoods. You’ve acted and behaved without question or giving it a second thought. Now you must think like a young child at sunset who’s asked what color the sky is. Instead of automatically stating that it’s blue I want you to take your time and observe that the sky is full of vibrant pinks, reds, oranges, and every shade in between. I want you to challenge everything you know and believe to be true. Then I want you to discover the truth as if you were learning it for the very first time. Embrace your curious nature and draw on your desire to find the vein of truth amidst the regurgitations of so-called ‘wisdom’ passed down by obedient fools. You will know and feel the truth by the way that it resonates within you.

When? Where? Why?

I’ve isolated the first instance of the growing inkling inside me that our lives were designed for something far greater. It all began when my ex-husband and I were still in the first stages of dating. While I was living in East Syracuse, NY he was still living in the same small town in Northern Minnesota that we graduated high school from. Needless to say, we talked on the phone a lot. We spent hours on the phone getting to know each other. He loved Sherlock Holmes (and his methods of deductive reasoning), logic puzzles, hypnosis, and magic. He was also really big into psychology and philosophy. He always thought about things deeply, coming to profound conclusions. His wisdom has continued to influence my thought processes to this very day. After he died in 2018, he came to me in a dream, showing me the last moments of his life. I believe he chose me because I was the one person that he knew would bear witness while withholding judgment. He knew I still loved and respected him, even though we’d been divorced for more than a decade.

Be retelling the stories of the lives lived by the deceased we ensure that their eternal life is attained.

Actualized through the transmission of the wisdom gained within the lives they lived.

His name was Daniel Cermak, and he was an altruist and an idealist. His standards were extremely high when it came to what he valued most in his close relationships. These standards went deeper than mere fidelity. He didn’t believe in lying or pretending. For how could you truly love someone without knowing them in their most intimate details? He believed that by lying you were robbing yourself of the solace in knowing that you were loved wholly. He valued things like honesty, integrity, fairness, and kindness. Even after our divorce was finalized I remained faithful to him, because I knew that if I was intimate with anyone else there was no chance he’d ever take me back, and even though I wanted the divorce, I also loved him very much.

During one of our late-night phone conversations, he asked me this question:

If you could pick any time, any civilization, anywhere in the world to live, what would it be? And naturally, why?

He had me a little stumped. For one, I hate history. I can’t help but think of it as one never-ending telephone game. You know the one you played in school where the whole class gets in a circle. Then the teacher whispers a phrase or story into one student’s ear and around the circle it goes until it comes out completely different on the other side. In school it was a lesson about believing and spreading gossip, but I imagine that history works in a much similar way. History isn’t like math, where you can just memorize the equations, and as long as you know the process you can always figure out the answer. History doesn’t work like that. There is no equation to apply. People are unpredictable. They’re cruel and rarely make any sense. He knew that I hated history and I felt like he was setting me up with a trick question, one that I couldn’t answer or come up with any justification as to why.

Eventually though, I came up with the perfect answer. One that made sense and resonated with me. It fit my personality quite well and still does. I chose to stay in here in the U.S. but not the America that we know and live in how. I wanted to live as a Native. Maybe a couple hundred years or so before Columbus came. I imagined being born and living in a small tribe of people, a few hundred people. I love hunting, fishing, camping, and nature. But the thing that I found most alluring was living in a small tribe. Being born into and growing up with the same people all of your life. Everyone knows each other. We know each other’s triumphs. We know each other’s struggles. We know each other’s pains. We know each other completely and thoroughly.

I want you to picture your best friend. This is probably a person that you’ve known for a long time and spent a lot of time with. You can finish each other’s sentences and understand exactly what they are thinking just from a look. When you know another person that well it’s called “attunement”. You are literally “in tune” with them. This is the part that appealed to me the most. I imagine when a group of people is that attuned with another there is nothing to hide. You couldn’t lie if you wanted to, and with that level of connection, why would you want to? It’s doubtful you’d get away with it. If you did something unsavory everyone would know.

Accountability under these circumstances would extend beyond the self, including those you were closest to and the rest of the tribe. Trust would be highly valued. Partly due to the fact that you needed each other to survive, but also because the more time you spend with the same people, the more you come to know, understand, and care about them. With that level of knowledge of them it would be to treat them with anything but compassion.

Love is a survival instinct because when you love someone you help keep them alive.

It was depth of intimacy that appealed to me the most. It was the care and consideration that would grow from living out your entire life together and everyone really knowing each other. It appealed to me because it seemed so different than what I had experienced so far in life. At the time I didn’t realize how profound this longing for more intimacy and connection truly was.

The Hidden Epidemic

On May 3rd, 2023, The Surgeon General released an advisory titled “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.” In it, he presents a whole laundry list of evidence detailing the negative impacts that this epidemic has on our minds, our bodies, our behaviors, our relationships, our communities, and our society as a whole. The evidence he presented was clear, apparent, and convincing.

Yet, I’m not convinced that the epidemic is one of loneliness and isolation. I believe that these are the natural consequences of a much larger issue. This issue touches nearly every aspect of our lives and has far more devastating consequences. To recognize the true epidemic one would have to confess to a certain level of accountability, along with the inevitable loss of status, power, and wealth that its perpetuation guarantees.

The real epidemic is one that has been identified and known to us for at least a hundred years yet has been minimized, ridiculed, and ignored. The symptoms of this epidemic date back long before history has been recorded and handed down. By eradicating this epidemic we could all live a happier, healthier, more peaceful, and equitable existence.

By allowing this epidemic to continue we are ensuring the unbalance of power, wealth, and knowledge. This epidemic robs us of what it means to be human. Despite the advantage this epidemic presently guarantees to a very small and select few individuals, I believe it will ultimately result in the collapse of our society if left unaddressed.

Now, you may be wondering what epidemic I could possibly be referring to. I promise I will reveal the answer to this riddle in a moment. First, I must warn you that your first instinct may be to scoff. You might feel as if I am making this a bigger deal than it is. You may feel that it couldn’t possibly have such far-reaching consequences. I implore you to reserve judgment and proceed with an open mind. I urge you to keep reading and examine the all of evidence for yourself. I’m confident that once you have a firm grasp of the concept you will agree with my assessment of the problem.

Before I name this epidemic I would like to assure you that there is a solution. All the pain, all the loneliness and isolation, all the hardship, and hate, and violence can be eliminated. Unfortunately, it will take a massive shift in the minds and hearts of all of humankind. Unfortunately, there are many people in power who are content with continuing to allow the majority to suffer for their benefit. Do not allow this to overwhelm you. Have confidence that the actions you take and the changes you make will be enough and are exactly what is needed.

The epidemic that I am referring to is Trauma. Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. It can also mean a physical injury. While trauma is a simple concept it has a complex impact on our minds with deeply profound and far-reaching effects. Understanding trauma and its long-term effects is crucial to understanding its impact and what it will require to eradicate it.

Living Like Gods

What makes humans exceptional?

This should be obvious, but if it’s not just take a good look around you. Look at the way that we live. We live like Gods compared to every other lifeform on Earth. Especially in this era. Anything we want we can purchase online and have delivered to our doorstep within a couple of days. We can speak to anyone in the world, and travel there too. We are masters of our environment. We are true alchemists with the power to manifest anything we can conceive of into existence. 

Everything that we touch contains thousands, if not millions of man-hours of effort behind it. Just think of all the knowledge that had to be acquired and handed down from generation to generation to create a cell phone. Math, physics, chemistry, engineering. All of the science behind it had to be discovered first before a cell phone could ever exist. Now we can get one for $100, or even for free (if you sign up for a service contract.)

Millions of hours, thousands of people, and hundreds of years of effort and we can pick one up in a few minutes of our time, for almost no effort and minimal obligation.

We are exceptional in the animal kingdom because of our advanced cognitive abilities. Our capacity for complex language, abstract thinking, and problem-solving sets humans apart from all other animals. We exhibit a remarkable self-awareness, consciousness, and culture. We actively manifest our environments and adapt to diversity. We rule this Earth, and all other forms of life are below us in comparison.

The Prefrontal Cortex

Our brain is what sets us apart. The convolutions in our brain allow for higher levels of processing, with the prefrontal cortex being the most critical component. It’s responsible for our higher cognitive functions, and decision-making abilities, and controls our social behavior. It’s the heart of executive functions and the core processing center responsible for planning, problem-solving, and emotional regulation. It matures throughout our childhood, and in some individuals until the mid-twenties, contributing to the maturation of the personality.

The prefrontal cortex blesses us with the ability to make informed decisions, this is why teenagers can make some horrible decisions. I like to describe this part of the brain as being responsible for two areas uniquely human, foresight and hindsight. We use it to process information from our environment, and the experiences of others. With this knowledge, we can make predictions, leverage powerful choices, and delay gratification for a future reward. No other animal comes close to this ability.

All You Need is Love

How did we get this way?
Interdependence

Interdependence is the mutual reliance of individuals or groups on one another for various aspects of their well-being. Humans are highly interdependent creatures, and the evolution of this trait is linked to our social, cognitive, and cultural adaptations. Love and attachment are fundamental aspects of human relationships, but what are the biological and psychological mechanisms that underlie them? How did they evolve and what are their functions? Love and attachment are not just emotional states, but physiological needs that needs that have evolvved to promote survival and reproduction. 

According to a widely accepted model proposed by Fisher et al. (2006), there are three main components of romantic love: lust, attraction, and attachment. Each component is associated with a distinct set of brain regions and hormones that regulate the behaviors and feelings involved in mating and bonding. Lust is the initial phase of sexual desire, driven by the hormones testosterone and estrogen, which stimulate the hypothalamus and the limbic system to seek sexual gratification. Attraction is the phase of intense focus and motivation toward a specific partner, mediated by the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which activate the reward and pleasure centers of the brain, such as the ventral tegmental area and the nucleus accumbens. Attachment is the phase of long-term commitment and emotional closeness, facilitated by the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which modulate the activity of the brain regions involved in social bonding and stress regulation, such as the amygdala and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

These components of romantic love have evolved to serve different adaptive functions in the context of human evolution. Lust evolved to initiate the mating process with any suitable partner, increasing the chances of gene transmission. Attraction evolved to enable individuals to select and prefer specific partners, conserving their mating time and energy, and enhancing the quality of their offspring. Attachment evolved to enable individuals to cooperate and care for their partners and offspring, ensuring their survival and well-being. These functions are consistent with the theory of sexual selection, which posits that certain traits and behaviors are favored by natural selection because they increase the reproductive success of individuals, either by increasing their attractiveness to the opposite sex (intersexual selection) or by increasing their competitiveness with the same sex (intrasexual selection).

However, love and attachment are not limited to romantic relationships. They also play a role in other types of social bonds, such as parent-child, sibling, and friendship bonds. These bonds are also influenced by the same hormones and brain regions that mediate romantic love, but with some variations and nuances. For example, parent-child and sibling bonds are characterized by high levels of oxytocin and vasopressin, which promote nurturing and protective behaviors, but low levels of sexual hormones, which inhibit incestuous behaviors. Friendship bonds are characterized by moderate levels of oxytocin and vasopressin, which foster trust and empathy, but also by high levels of dopamine and serotonin, which enhance positive affect and social reward.

These types of social bonds have also evolved to serve different adaptive functions in the context of human evolution. Parent-child and sibling bonds evolved to enhance the survival and development of offspring, as well as the inclusive fitness of parents and relatives. Friendship bonds evolved to enhance the cooperation and reciprocity among unrelated individuals, as well as the social and emotional support in times of need. These functions are consistent with the theory of kin selection, which posits that individuals are more likely to help and sacrifice for their genetic relatives, and the theory of reciprocal altruism, which posits that individuals are more likely to help and sacrifice for their non-genetic allies, as long as the benefits outweigh the costs.

Human Evolution

When considering the rest of the animal kingdom, even other primates, humans are born extremely prematurely. We have to because if we gestated any longer it would have mortal consequences on our caregivers. Women’s hips have a narrow birth canal, necessary for upright mobility. Combining this feature with big brains (and heads to house those brains) makes it a requirement that we birth our young long before they’re ready for the outside world. This makes human infants very vulnerable demanding constant care.

What other animal on Earth has a developmental phase as long as ours? Horses are born and will wobble for a few minutes before taking off running. Sea turtles lay eggs, leaving their babies to hatch alone and capable of fending for themselves. Other primates are at least capable of clinging to their mothers. The human brain doesn’t stop developing until our mid twenties. The last part of the brain to develop is the prefrontal cortex.

Before the invention of infant formulas, a mother dying from childbirth was a death sentence for the baby. Human milk is irreplaceable and unless the family could find another lactating mother willing to donate milk a motherless newborn would most assuredly die.

With birth always comes the chance of death. I think that every woman knows this to be true as soon as she learns where babies come from. I don’t know about anyone else, but this realization came with a sense of dread and panic, which returned when I learned I was pregnant with my son. My cousin died from complications from childbirth after her 3rd child. When I say the chance of death comes with every birth what I mean is… this is our legacy.

All of these factors make human pair bonding extremely important. I might piss off a few fringe feminists with this one, but we need our men. Women need a partner to help ourselves and our children survive. Women need love and connection to reassure us that we won’t be abandoned. Women need to be emotionally and socially intelligent, because if we’re wrong about our partners commitment to us, it could result in not only our death, but that of our children. A loving connection creates a peace of mind in knowing that the person we choose to spend our lives with, the life that we’re putting on the line to give him children, is there for me. Women need to feel safe and secure in their relationships because life with an infant and then a child is a whole lot easier if you have two people doing it together. Everything ‘should’ be a whole lot easier with two people.

But we have forces working against us. Men. I hope you can hear the truth in the joke I’m making here by putting it so bluntly. Think this through with me for a minute. Women are born with all the eggs they’ll ever have, around 300,000. We’re only fertile for 40 years or so and only have 450 to 500 chances to get pregnant. We’re also limited in the number of children we can bear. Plus there is the previously mentioned benefit of it potentially killing us.

The Developing Brain

Childhood Brain Development

Childhood brain development is a complex and dynamic process characterized by rapid growth, the formation of neural connections, and the establishment of essential cognitive, emotional, and motor functions. This critical period lays the foundation for a child’s future learning, behavior, and overall well-being. Here are key aspects of childhood brain development:

Neurogenesis:

Neurogenesis is the process of generating new neurons (nerve cells) in the brain. It occurs predominantly during prenatal development, but some degree of neurogenesis continues in certain brain regions, such as the hippocampus, throughout childhood.

Synaptogenesis:

Synaptogenesis involves the formation of synapses, which are connections between neurons. The early years of childhood are marked by a rapid increase in synapse formation, creating the neural networks that underlie various cognitive functions.

Myelination:

Myelination is the process of forming a protective sheath (myelin) around nerve fibers. This sheath improves the efficiency of signal transmission between neurons. Myelination continues into adolescence, enhancing the speed and coordination of neural communication.

Critical Periods:

Certain periods in childhood are considered critical for the development of specific skills or abilities. For example, the early years are crucial for language acquisition, and sensitive periods exist for the development of sensory and motor skills.

Prefrontal Cortex Development:

The prefrontal cortex, responsible for higher-order cognitive functions such as decision-making, impulse control, and social behavior, undergoes significant development during childhood and adolescence. This region is one of the last to fully mature, with ongoing changes into early adulthood.

Emotional Regulation:

The limbic system, involved in emotional regulation and memory, undergoes development during childhood. The formation of connections between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex plays a crucial role in emotional control and regulation.

Motor Skills Development:

Childhood is a period of rapid motor skills development. Motor areas of the brain, such as the cerebellum, contribute to the refinement of both gross and fine motor skills.

Language Development:

Language centers in the brain, located primarily in the left hemisphere, undergo significant development during early childhood. Exposure to language and linguistic experiences during this period is crucial for language acquisition.

Social and Emotional Learning:

Brain regions involved in social and emotional processing, including the amygdala and mirror neurons, develop during childhood. These areas contribute to the understanding of emotions, empathy, and social interactions.

Experience-Dependent Plasticity:

The brain exhibits a high degree of plasticity during childhood, allowing it to adapt to experiences. Positive and enriching experiences contribute to healthy brain development, while adverse experiences can have negative effects.

Influence of Genetics and Environment:

Both genetic factors and environmental experiences play critical roles in shaping childhood brain development. The interplay between genetic predispositions and external stimuli contributes to individual differences in cognitive and emotional functioning.

Educational and Enrichment Experiences:

Educational and enrichment experiences, including exposure to a stimulating environment, supportive relationships, and diverse learning opportunities, positively influence brain development during childhood.

Understanding the intricacies of childhood brain development is essential for designing educational interventions, parenting strategies, and policies that support optimal cognitive, emotional, and social outcomes for children. Early interventions that promote a positive and nurturing environment can have long-lasting effects on a child’s overall well-being.

 

Trauma Touches Everything & Everyone

Trauma processing in the brain involves complex neurobiological mechanisms that impact various regions. Here’s an overview of how trauma is processed in the brain:
Amygdala Activation:
  • The amygdala, a region associated with emotional processing, reacts quickly to potential threats or trauma.
  • It triggers the “fight-or-flight” response, releasing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
Hippocampus Involvement:
  • The hippocampus, responsible for forming and consolidating memories, plays a crucial role.
  • Trauma can impair the hippocampus, leading to fragmented or incomplete memory storage.
Prefrontal Cortex and Executive Functions:
  • The prefrontal cortex, particularly the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, is involved in emotional regulation and decision-making.
  • Trauma can impact these executive functions, leading to difficulties in regulating emotions and making rational choices.
Fear Conditioning:
  • Traumatic experiences often result in fear conditioning, where stimuli associated with the trauma evoke fear responses.
  • This process involves neural pathways and synaptic connections that contribute to the persistence of trauma-related memories.
Neurotransmitter Imbalance:
  • Trauma can disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters, affecting mood and emotional stability.
  • Dysregulation in neurotransmitter systems, such as serotonin and dopamine, is common in individuals who have experienced trauma.
Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis Activation:
  • The HPA axis, involved in the stress response, becomes dysregulated in response to trauma.
  • Chronic activation can lead to long-term changes in stress hormone levels, impacting overall physiological and psychological well-being.
Epigenetic Changes:
  • Trauma can induce epigenetic changes, altering the expression of genes associated with stress response.
  • These changes may contribute to the intergenerational transmission of trauma-related effects.
Neuroplasticity and Adaptation:
  • The brain exhibits neuroplasticity, allowing it to adapt and reorganize in response to experiences.
  • Trauma may lead to maladaptive changes in neural circuits, influencing coping mechanisms and emotional regulation.
Dissociation as a Coping Mechanism:
  • In response to overwhelming trauma, individuals may experience dissociation – a disconnection from thoughts, feelings, or memories.
  • This can involve altered states of consciousness and contribute to difficulties in integrating traumatic experiences.

Understanding the neural processes involved in trauma can inform therapeutic approaches, such as trauma-focused therapies that aim to reprocess and integrate traumatic memories, promoting healing and recovery.

 

The Neurobiology of Trauma

The neurobiology of trauma involves a complex interplay of neural and biochemical processes that affect various regions of the brain. Here’s a more detailed exploration of the neurobiological aspects of trauma:

Amygdala Activation:
  • The amygdala, a key emotional processing center, responds rapidly to threat or trauma.
  • Trauma triggers the release of stress hormones (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline) from the adrenal glands.
Hippocampus Impact:
  • The hippocampus, critical for memory consolidation, can be adversely affected by trauma.
  • High levels of stress hormones can impair the hippocampus, leading to difficulties in forming coherent and contextually rich memories.
Prefrontal Cortex Changes:
  • The prefrontal cortex, responsible for executive functions and emotional regulation, may undergo changes.
  • Trauma can lead to reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex, affecting decision-making, impulse control, and emotional regulation.
Neurotransmitter Dysregulation:
  • Trauma disrupts neurotransmitter systems, including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
  • Imbalances in these neurotransmitters contribute to mood disorders, anxiety, and other psychological symptoms associated with trauma.
Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis Dysregulation:
  • Trauma activates the HPA axis, leading to increased production of cortisol.
  • Chronic activation can result in HPA axis dysregulation, impacting the body’s stress response and overall physiological balance.
Altered Neural Circuits:
  • Trauma can induce changes in neural circuits, particularly those involved in fear response and emotional regulation.
  • These alterations contribute to heightened reactivity to trauma-related cues and difficulties in extinguishing fear responses.
Neuroinflammation:
  • Trauma is associated with increased levels of inflammation in the brain.
  • Chronic neuroinflammation has been linked to various mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Epigenetic Modifications:
  • Trauma can lead to epigenetic changes, influencing gene expression without altering the underlying DNA sequence.
  • These changes may contribute to the long-lasting effects of trauma and even be transmitted across generations.
Dissociation and Altered States of Consciousness:
  • Individuals may experience dissociation as a coping mechanism during traumatic events.
  • This involves a detachment from one’s thoughts, feelings, or surroundings and can impact memory encoding and retrieval.

Understanding the neurobiology of trauma is crucial for developing effective therapeutic interventions. Trauma-focused therapies often aim to address these neurobiological changes, promoting adaptive neural plasticity and facilitating the integration of traumatic memories for healing and recovery.

 

Trauma Alters the Structure and Function of the Developing Brain

Trauma can have profound and lasting effects on the structure and function of a child’s developing brain. The developing brain is highly sensitive to external influences, and exposure to traumatic experiences during childhood can shape neural circuits, impact neurotransmitter systems, and influence various brain regions. Here are ways in which trauma alters the structure and function of a child’s developing brain:

Amygdala Hyperactivity:

The amygdala, a key brain region involved in emotional processing and the stress response, may become hyperactive in response to trauma. This heightened activity can lead to increased emotional reactivity, hypervigilance, and difficulties in regulating emotions.

Hippocampal Changes:

The hippocampus, important for memory and learning, can be affected by trauma. Chronic stress and trauma exposure may lead to a smaller hippocampal volume, impacting memory consolidation and the ability to cope with stress.

Prefrontal Cortex Impairment:

Trauma can impair the development of the prefrontal cortex, a region responsible for executive functions, impulse control, decision-making, and emotional regulation. This may result in difficulties with attention, self-control, and problem-solving.

Altered Neurotransmitter Levels:

Trauma can affect the balance of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which play crucial roles in mood regulation and reward systems. Dysregulation of these neurotransmitter systems is associated with mood disorders and behavioral challenges.

Dysregulation of the HPA Axis:

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a key component of the stress response system, may become dysregulated due to trauma. This can lead to prolonged elevation of stress hormones, such as cortisol, impacting the child’s stress response and overall physiological well-being.

Changes in Neural Connectivity:

Trauma can alter the connectivity between different brain regions. Disruptions in neural networks may affect information processing, emotional regulation, and the integration of sensory experiences.

Sensitization of the Fear Response:

Exposure to trauma can sensitize the fear response, making individuals more reactive to potential threats. This heightened sensitivity may contribute to increased anxiety and difficulties in distinguishing between real and perceived threats.

Epigenetic Modifications:

Trauma can lead to epigenetic modifications, altering the expression of genes involved in stress regulation and emotional processing. These modifications may be passed down through generations, contributing to intergenerational effects of trauma.

Impact on Neuroplasticity:

Trauma can influence neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to adapt and reorganize. While neuroplasticity is essential for learning and development, trauma-induced changes may lead to maladaptive patterns that contribute to mental health challenges.

Influence on Attachment Systems:

Trauma can affect the development of attachment systems, influencing the child’s ability to form secure and trusting relationships. Challenges in forming healthy attachments may impact social and emotional development.

Persistent Hypervigilance:

Children who have experienced trauma may develop a state of persistent hypervigilance, characterized by heightened alertness to potential threats. This can lead to difficulties in relaxation and impact overall well-being.
It’s important to note that the impact of trauma on the developing brain is not uniform, and individual responses vary. Early intervention, trauma-informed care, and supportive environments are crucial for mitigating the effects of trauma and promoting healing and resilience in children.

 

Learning Trauma & Automatic Trauma Responses

Trauma Responses

Trauma responses are a range of instinctive reactions that individuals may exhibit when faced with overwhelming or threatening situations. Here are descriptions of several trauma responses:

Fight:
  • The “fight” response is characterized by a reactive and aggressive approach to a perceived threat.
  • Individuals exhibiting the fight response may become confrontational, assertive, or engage in defensive behaviors to protect themselves.
Flight:
  • The “flight” response involves a strong urge to escape or avoid a threatening situation.
  • Individuals may experience heightened anxiety, restlessness, or a desire to physically or emotionally distance themselves from the perceived danger.
Freeze:
  • The “freeze” response is marked by a state of immobility or paralysis.
  • In this state, individuals may feel unable to act or make decisions. It is a protective mechanism, as stillness can be perceived as a way to avoid detection by a potential threat.
Fawn:
  • The “fawn” response is a social and appeasing reaction to threat.
  • Individuals exhibiting the fawn response may prioritize others’ needs over their own, seek to please, or try to make themselves less of a target by being compliant and agreeable.
Fine:
  • The “fine” response involves masking or minimizing one’s emotional state, even in the face of trauma.
  • Individuals may say they are “fine” or appear composed on the surface while suppressing or dissociating from their true emotions. This response can be a coping mechanism to avoid vulnerability or social discomfort.
Faint:
  • The “faint” response, also known as vasovagal syncope, involves a sudden loss of consciousness.
  • It is a physiological reaction that may occur in response to extreme stress or trauma. The body’s response includes a drop in heart rate and blood pressure, leading to temporary unconsciousness.

These trauma responses are adaptive mechanisms that evolved to enhance survival in threatening situations. Individuals may exhibit a combination of these responses, and the specific response can vary based on factors such as the nature of the threat, past experiences, and individual differences. Understanding these responses is crucial for trauma-informed care and therapeutic interventions aimed at promoting healing and resilience.

 

The Learning and Conditioning of Traumatic Experiences

The concepts of learning and conditioning during traumatic experiences can contribute to long-term detrimental physical and mental symptoms through various neurobiological processes. Here’s an overview of how these mechanisms operate:

Fear Conditioning:
  • Traumatic experiences often lead to fear conditioning, where the brain associates specific stimuli or cues with the traumatic event.
  • Over time, these conditioned stimuli can trigger intense fear responses, even in non-threatening situations, contributing to symptoms such as anxiety and hypervigilance.
Hippocampal Impairment:
  • The hippocampus, responsible for memory consolidation, may be adversely affected by trauma.
  • Impaired hippocampal function can lead to fragmented or incomplete memory storage, contributing to the re-experiencing of traumatic memories and difficulties in contextualizing them.
Amygdala Hyperactivity:
  • The amygdala, a key player in emotional processing, may become hyperactive after trauma.
  • This heightened activity can lead to exaggerated emotional responses, particularly fear and anxiety, contributing to the persistence of trauma-related symptoms.
Neurotransmitter Dysregulation:
  • Trauma can disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
  • Dysregulation in these neurotransmitter systems is associated with mood disorders, depression, and other mental health symptoms commonly observed in individuals who have experienced trauma.
Altered Neural Circuits:
  • Trauma can induce changes in neural circuits involved in stress response and emotional regulation.
  • Maladaptive changes in these circuits can contribute to difficulties in managing stress, regulating emotions, and forming healthy interpersonal relationships.
Chronic Stress Response:
  • The HPA axis, which regulates the body’s stress response, may become dysregulated after trauma.
  • Chronic activation of the stress response system can lead to long-term changes in stress hormone levels, impacting physical health and contributing to conditions like chronic pain and autoimmune disorders.
Epigenetic Modifications:
  • Trauma can result in epigenetic changes, influencing the expression of genes associated with stress response.
  • These modifications may contribute to the long-lasting effects of trauma, impacting an individual’s susceptibility to mental and physical health issues.
Learned Helplessness:

Individuals who experience repeated trauma may develop a sense of learned helplessness, where they believe they have no control over their circumstances.

This learned helplessness can contribute to feelings of hopelessness, exacerbating mental health symptoms.

Dissociation and Avoidance:
  • Learning to dissociate or avoid reminders of trauma may provide short-term relief but can lead to long-term difficulties in processing and integrating the traumatic experience.
  • Avoidance behaviors may contribute to the maintenance of symptoms and hinder recovery.

Understanding the intricate interplay of these neurobiological mechanisms is crucial for designing effective therapeutic interventions aimed at addressing both the physical and mental aspects of trauma-related symptoms. Trauma-informed approaches often focus on promoting resilience, restoring a sense of safety, and facilitating adaptive neuroplasticity to support healing.

 

Behavioral Control via the Maintenance of Trauma Responses

The maintenance of trauma responses can result in behavioral control through various psychological and neurobiological mechanisms. Here are some ways in which trauma responses contribute to behavioral control:

Survival Instincts:
  • Trauma responses often originate from the brain’s instinctual survival mechanisms.
  • Behaviors associated with trauma responses, such as fight, flight, freeze, or avoidance, are adaptive strategies that initially served to protect the individual from harm.
Conditioned Responses:
  • Traumatic experiences can lead to conditioned responses, where certain stimuli or situations become associated with the trauma.
  • The individual may develop automatic, ingrained reactions to these cues, influencing behavior to avoid potential threats or triggers.
Avoidance and Safety Behaviors:
  • Individuals who have experienced trauma may develop avoidance behaviors or safety strategies to minimize the risk of re-experiencing trauma.
  • These behaviors, while initially adaptive, can become habitual and restrictive, exerting control over an individual’s daily activities and interactions.
Learned Helplessness:
  • Repeated exposure to trauma without the ability to escape or control the situation can lead to learned helplessness.
  • Individuals may adopt passive or avoidant behaviors, feeling a lack of control over their circumstances and contributing to a sense of helplessness.
Hyperarousal and Hypervigilance:
  • Trauma responses often involve heightened arousal and vigilance to potential threats.
  • Individuals may maintain a state of hyperarousal, constantly scanning their environment for danger. This heightened state of alertness can result in controlling behaviors to create a sense of safety.
Emotional Regulation Strategies:
  • Trauma responses can influence emotional regulation strategies, such as dissociation or numbing.
  • Controlling emotions through these strategies may be an attempt to manage overwhelming feelings associated with trauma.
Rigid Coping Mechanisms:
  • Individuals may develop rigid coping mechanisms as a way to maintain a semblance of control over their emotional experiences.
  • These mechanisms can include avoidance of certain situations, people, or emotions, limiting the individual’s ability to adapt to new circumstances.
Self-Protective Behaviors:
  • Trauma responses, especially those associated with the fight or aggressive response, may result in self-protective behaviors.
  • Individuals may adopt controlling behaviors to establish a sense of power and protect themselves from perceived threats.
Interpersonal Dynamics:
  • Trauma responses can influence interpersonal dynamics, leading to control-oriented behaviors in relationships.
  • Individuals may seek control as a way to manage the unpredictability and vulnerability associated with trauma.

It’s important to note that while these behaviors initially serve as coping mechanisms, they can become maladaptive over time, hindering the individual’s overall well-being and relationships. Trauma-informed therapies often aim to help individuals recognize and modify these patterns of behavior, promoting healthier coping strategies and restoring a sense of agency and control over their lives.

 

Faulty Minds

Trauma’s Creation of Early Maladaptive Schema

Early maladaptive schemas are deeply ingrained cognitive and emotional patterns that develop during childhood and can persist into adulthood. Trauma can contribute to the formation of specific early maladaptive schemas.

Here are some examples:

Abandonment/Instability:

Individuals who have experienced early abandonment, neglect, or inconsistent caregiving may develop a schema of abandonment/instability. This can lead to fears of being abandoned, difficulty trusting others, and a constant search for security.

Mistrust/Abuse:

Trauma involving betrayal, abuse, or mistreatment can contribute to the development of a mistrust/abuse schema. Individuals may struggle with trusting others, expecting harm or betrayal in relationships.

Emotional Deprivation:

Emotional neglect or unmet emotional needs during childhood can result in the emotional deprivation schema. Individuals may feel a chronic sense of emptiness, loneliness, or the belief that their emotional needs will never be fulfilled.

Defectiveness/Shame:

Experiences of trauma, especially those involving criticism, rejection, or humiliation, can contribute to the development of a defectiveness/shame schema. Individuals with this schema may feel inherently flawed, unworthy, or ashamed of who they are.

Social Isolation/Alienation:

Trauma can lead to social withdrawal, isolation, or a sense of not belonging. This can contribute to the development of a social isolation/alienation schema, where individuals struggle to connect with others and feel a pervasive sense of loneliness.

Dependence/Incompetence:

Trauma that involves disempowerment or experiences of helplessness can lead to the development of a dependence/incompetence schema. Individuals may doubt their abilities, fear independence, and feel a persistent sense of incompetence.

Vulnerability to Harm or Illness:

Traumatic experiences, especially those involving threats to physical safety, can contribute to a vulnerability to harm or illness schema. Individuals may have heightened anxiety about potential dangers, leading to hypervigilance and avoidance behaviors.

Enmeshment/Undeveloped Self:

Trauma within family dynamics, such as over-involvement or lack of boundaries, can result in the enmeshment/undeveloped self schema. Individuals may struggle to establish a sense of identity independent of others.

Failure:

Trauma that involves repeated failures or criticism can contribute to a failure schema. Individuals may fear making mistakes, avoid taking risks, and believe they are destined to fail in their endeavors.

Subjugation:

Trauma involving oppressive or dominating relationships can lead to the subjugation schema. Individuals may feel compelled to meet others’ needs at the expense of their own desires and interests.

These early maladaptive schemas influence thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, impacting how individuals perceive themselves and relate to others. Addressing these schemas is a key aspect of therapeutic interventions, such as schema therapy, aimed at promoting healing and fostering healthier patterns of thinking and behaving.

 

Protecting the Ego

Trauma’s Creation of Defense Mechanisms

 

Long-Term Impact of Childhood Trauma

Trauma’s Impact on Our Lives

Trauma can have profound and pervasive effects on various aspects of individuals’ lives. The impact of trauma extends beyond the initial traumatic event and can influence multiple domains. Here are key areas of life that can be affected by trauma:

Mental Health:

Trauma is closely linked to mental health challenges, including conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, depression, and other mood disorders.

Emotional Well-being:

Trauma can significantly impact emotional well-being, leading to heightened emotional reactivity, mood swings, and difficulties in regulating emotions.

Physical Health:

Chronic exposure to trauma is associated with physical health issues, including cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal disorders, chronic pain, and compromised immune function.

Relationships:

Trauma can strain relationships, leading to challenges in forming and maintaining connections with others. Trust issues, difficulties with intimacy, and fear of vulnerability are common in individuals who have experienced trauma.

Interpersonal Functioning:

Social and interpersonal functioning may be affected by trauma, leading to difficulties in communication, assertiveness, and the establishment of healthy boundaries.

Occupational Functioning:

Trauma can impact an individual’s ability to perform effectively in work or academic settings. Difficulties concentrating, managing stress, and maintaining productivity are common consequences.

Self-Esteem and Identity:

Trauma can erode self-esteem and influence one’s sense of identity. Individuals may struggle with feelings of shame, worthlessness, or a distorted self-image.

Cognitive Functioning:

Cognitive functioning may be affected by trauma, leading to difficulties with memory, concentration, and decision-making. Persistent negative thoughts and cognitive distortions are common.

Behavioral Patterns:

Trauma can influence behavioral patterns, leading to maladaptive coping mechanisms, self-destructive behaviors, and difficulties in forming and maintaining healthy habits.

Spiritual Well-being:

Trauma can impact one’s sense of meaning, purpose, and connection to a higher power or spiritual beliefs. Individuals may grapple with existential questions and a sense of spiritual disconnection.

Parenting and Family Life:

Trauma can affect parenting styles and family dynamics. Parents who have experienced trauma may struggle with parenting challenges, and family members may be impacted by the emotional atmosphere within the household.

Sexual Health and Intimacy:

Trauma can influence sexual health and intimacy, leading to challenges such as sexual dysfunction, difficulties in forming intimate relationships, or a negative impact on one’s sexual self-image.

Life Satisfaction:

Trauma can contribute to a decreased sense of life satisfaction and fulfillment. Individuals may face challenges in finding joy, meaning, and purpose in their lives.

It’s important to recognize that the impact of trauma is multifaceted and varies among individuals. Trauma-informed approaches to therapy and support focus on addressing these various areas to promote healing, resilience, and a holistic recovery process.

 

The Impact of Trauma Beyond the Individual

The impact of trauma extends beyond the individual and can have profound effects on relationships, families, communities, and even entire societies. Understanding the broader implications of trauma is essential for addressing its collective and intergenerational effects. Here are some ways in which trauma can impact various levels beyond the individual:

Family Dynamics:

Trauma within a family can disrupt interpersonal relationships and family dynamics. It may lead to strained communication, difficulties in establishing trust, and challenges in maintaining emotional intimacy.

Interpersonal Relationships:

Trauma can influence the way individuals relate to others, affecting friendships, romantic relationships, and professional connections. Trust issues, emotional distance, and difficulties in forming healthy attachments may arise.

Parenting and Child Development:

Parents who have experienced trauma may face challenges in providing consistent and nurturing care to their children. Trauma can impact parenting styles and contribute to difficulties in creating a secure and supportive environment for child development.

Community Well-being:

Trauma within a community can contribute to a collective sense of distress and impact overall community well-being. High levels of trauma may be associated with increased crime rates, substance abuse, and mental health challenges within the community.

Social Trust and Cohesion:

Trauma can erode social trust and cohesion within a society. Disparities in trauma exposure and its consequences may contribute to social divisions and undermine efforts to build a cohesive and supportive community.

Educational Attainment:

Trauma can affect academic performance and educational attainment. Individuals who have experienced trauma may struggle with concentration, engagement, and coping with the demands of the educational environment.

Economic Productivity:

Trauma can impact economic productivity at both individual and societal levels. Mental health challenges resulting from trauma may lead to difficulties in obtaining and maintaining employment, contributing to economic disparities.

Cultural and Social Identity:

Trauma can shape cultural and social identity, influencing the way individuals and communities perceive themselves and others. Historical trauma, in particular, can impact the collective identity of marginalized groups.

Health Disparities:

Trauma is linked to various health disparities, including increased risks of chronic physical health conditions. The physiological impact of trauma may contribute to overall health inequities within a population.

Cycles of Violence:

Untreated trauma can contribute to cycles of violence, as individuals who have experienced trauma may be more prone to aggressive behaviors. This can perpetuate a cycle of trauma within families and communities.

Social Institutions:

Trauma can influence the functioning of social institutions such as the criminal justice system, healthcare, and education. Inadequate recognition and response to trauma may contribute to systemic issues and perpetuate inequalities.

Cultural Practices and Beliefs:

Trauma can shape cultural practices, beliefs, and norms within a society. It may influence the way communities cope with distress, seek support, and approach mental health.

Addressing the impact of trauma beyond the individual requires a comprehensive and systemic approach. Initiatives that promote trauma-informed care, community resilience, and social justice are essential for fostering healing and well-being at multiple levels.

 

The Continual Perpetuation of Trauma

Barriers to Healing

Several societal belief systems, mindsets, or paradigms may contribute to hindering the healing of trauma within individuals and communities. These factors can create barriers to seeking help, addressing root causes, and fostering a supportive environment for recovery. Here are some key elements:

Stigma and Shame:

Societal stigmas around mental health and trauma can discourage individuals from seeking help. The perception that acknowledging trauma is a sign of weakness or failure can contribute to shame and reluctance to share experiences.

Individualism and Self-Reliance:

Cultural values that prioritize individualism and self-reliance may discourage individuals from seeking support or expressing vulnerability. This mindset can perpetuate the idea that struggling with trauma is a personal failure rather than a shared societal concern.

Toxic Masculinity:

Traditional notions of masculinity that discourage men from expressing vulnerability, emotions, or seeking help can hinder the healing process. Men may feel societal pressure to conform to stoic stereotypes, inhibiting their ability to address and share their traumatic experiences.

Minimization of Historical Trauma:

Disregarding or minimizing the impact of historical trauma, such as systemic oppression, colonization, or other historical injustices, can undermine efforts to understand and address the root causes of intergenerational trauma.

Normalization of Violence:

Societal acceptance or normalization of violence, whether in media, entertainment, or interpersonal relationships, may desensitize individuals to the severity of trauma. This normalization can hinder efforts to recognize and address traumatic experiences.

Cultural and Racial Bias:

Cultural and racial biases may lead to the marginalization of certain communities and minimize the acknowledgment of their unique experiences of trauma. Lack of cultural competence in mental health services can further perpetuate these disparities.

Lack of Access to Resources:

Socioeconomic disparities and limited access to mental health resources can hinder healing. Barriers such as financial constraints, lack of insurance, or geographical limitations may prevent individuals from accessing necessary support.

Criminalization of Mental Health Issues:

Societal paradigms that criminalize or stigmatize mental health issues can discourage individuals from seeking help. The intersection of mental health and the criminal justice system may hinder access to appropriate care.

Unrealistic Expectations of Recovery:

Societal expectations that individuals should quickly overcome trauma or “move on” may undermine the complexity of the healing process. Unrealistic timelines for recovery can create additional stress and frustration.

Cultural Mistrust:

Historical and systemic injustices may contribute to a mistrust of mental health systems within certain communities. Cultural mistrust can act as a barrier to seeking help and engaging in therapeutic processes.

Addressing these societal belief systems, mindsets, and paradigms is crucial for creating a more supportive and empathetic environment for individuals dealing with trauma. It requires fostering cultural competence, reducing stigma, promoting inclusivity, and addressing systemic inequalities to create a society that actively supports healing and recovery.

 

Trauma Denial

“Trauma denial” refers to the psychological and societal tendency to minimize, ignore, or outright deny the existence and impact of traumatic experiences on individuals or communities. This denial can manifest at both individual and collective levels and may involve various forms of avoidance, rationalization, or suppression of the reality of trauma.

Here are some key aspects of trauma denial:

Individual Denial:

Individuals who have experienced trauma may engage in denial as a coping mechanism. This can involve minimizing the severity of the traumatic event, repressing memories, or avoiding acknowledgment of the emotional and psychological impact.

Collective Denial:

Societal or cultural groups may collectively deny the occurrence or significance of certain traumatic events. This can be a defense mechanism to protect a particular narrative, historical perspective, or societal identity.

Cultural and Institutional Denial:

Cultural norms or institutional structures may contribute to the denial of trauma. In some cases, institutions may downplay the prevalence or consequences of trauma, hindering efforts to address and heal from the impact.

Stigma and Shame:

Stigma and shame surrounding trauma may contribute to denial. Individuals or communities may fear judgment, ostracization, or marginalization, leading to a reluctance to openly discuss or acknowledge traumatic experiences.

Minimization of Systemic Issues:

Denial can extend to the systemic or structural aspects of trauma, such as societal inequalities, discrimination, or systemic violence. Minimizing these issues can perpetuate systemic injustices and hinder efforts to address root causes.

Avoidance of Discomfort:

Acknowledging trauma can be emotionally challenging and uncomfortable. Individuals or societies may engage in denial as a way to avoid facing the distressing emotions associated with traumatic experiences.

Historical Trauma Denial:

Denial of historical traumas, such as genocides, colonial atrocities, or other large-scale human rights violations, may occur at both individual and societal levels. This denial can impact how history is taught, remembered, and transmitted across generations.

Gaslighting:

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to make individuals doubt their own perceptions and experiences. In the context of trauma, gaslighting can contribute to denial by undermining the credibility of survivors.

Impact on Healing:

Trauma denial can hinder the healing process by preventing individuals or communities from acknowledging and addressing the effects of trauma. Acceptance and validation are crucial for effective trauma recovery.

Social and Cultural Paradigms:

Certain social or cultural paradigms may perpetuate denial by promoting narratives that minimize the impact of trauma or discourage open discussions about difficult topics.

Addressing trauma denial involves creating spaces for open dialogue, fostering empathy and understanding, and challenging societal norms that contribute to the suppression of traumatic experiences. Recognizing and validating the reality of trauma is essential for promoting healing, resilience, and societal awareness.

 

The Epigenetics of Trauma

Epigenetics refers to changes in gene expression that do not involve alterations to the underlying DNA sequence. The epigenetics of trauma involves modifications to gene expression patterns that can be influenced by traumatic experiences. Here’s an overview of how epigenetics and trauma interact:

DNA Methylation:
  • DNA methylation is a common epigenetic modification that involves adding a methyl group to the DNA molecule. In the context of trauma, increased DNA methylation can occur, leading to changes in gene expression.
  • Hypermethylation of specific genes may be associated with a downregulation of their activity, potentially impacting processes related to stress response and emotional regulation.
Histone Modifications:
  • Histones are proteins around which DNA is wrapped, forming chromatin. Chemical modifications to histones can influence the accessibility of DNA for transcription.
  • Trauma may lead to histone modifications that alter the structure of chromatin, influencing gene expression. These changes can affect the regulation of stress-related genes.
Non-Coding RNAs:
  • Non-coding RNAs, such as microRNAs, are involved in post-transcriptional gene regulation. They can bind to messenger RNAs (mRNAs) and prevent them from being translated into proteins.
  • Trauma-induced changes in non-coding RNA expression may impact the translation of specific genes associated with stress response, mood regulation, and other relevant functions.
Transgenerational Inheritance:
  • Epigenetic changes resulting from trauma can be passed down to future generations. This phenomenon is known as transgenerational inheritance.
  • Trauma-induced epigenetic modifications in germ cells (sperm and egg cells) can affect the epigenome of offspring, potentially influencing their susceptibility to stress-related disorders.
Stress Hormones and Epigenetics:
  • Stress hormones, such as cortisol, play a role in the epigenetic regulation of genes related to the stress response.
  • Chronic exposure to stress, as seen in traumatic experiences, can influence the expression of genes involved in the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is a key component of the stress response.
Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF):
  • BDNF is a neurotrophin involved in neuronal growth, development, and plasticity. Trauma can influence the epigenetic regulation of the BDNF gene.
  • Changes in BDNF expression are associated with alterations in synaptic plasticity and may contribute to the long-term effects of trauma on brain function.
Immune System Regulation:
  • Epigenetic modifications can impact the regulation of genes involved in immune system function. Trauma-induced changes in immune system gene expression may contribute to inflammation and immune dysregulation associated with trauma.

Understanding the epigenetics of trauma provides insights into the molecular mechanisms through which environmental experiences, including trauma, can shape an individual’s biological responses. It highlights the potential for interventions that target epigenetic processes to mitigate the long-term effects of trauma and promote resilience. However, it’s important to note that the field of epigenetics is complex, and research in this area is ongoing.

 

Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome

Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS) is a concept introduced by Dr. Joy DeGruy, a researcher and educator, in her book “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing.” PTSS is a theoretical framework that explores the long-term impact of slavery on the African American community in the United States. It suggests that the historical trauma of slavery has had profound and lasting effects on the psychological, emotional, and social well-being of African Americans.

Key components of Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome include:

Historical Trauma:

PTSS acknowledges the historical trauma inflicted upon African Americans during slavery, encompassing the dehumanization, violence, and systematic oppression endured for generations.

Cultural Miseducation:

Dr. DeGruy argues that there has been a historical and systemic misrepresentation of African American history, culture, and contributions. This cultural miseducation contributes to a distorted self-perception and identity for individuals within the African American community.

Multigenerational Impact:

PTSS posits that the trauma experienced by enslaved individuals has been transmitted across generations. The effects of slavery are believed to persist in the form of social, economic, and psychological challenges faced by contemporary African Americans.

Adaptive Survival Behaviors:

The theory suggests that certain behavioral patterns and coping mechanisms developed during slavery, such as resilience and adaptability, may have become ingrained and passed down through generations. However, these adaptive behaviors may also contribute to challenges in contemporary contexts.

Internalized Oppression:

PTSS explores how systemic oppression and racism have led to the internalization of negative stereotypes and beliefs within the African American community. This internalized oppression can manifest in self-destructive behaviors and a sense of inferiority.

Healing and Resilience:

While PTSS recognizes the deep wounds caused by historical trauma, it also emphasizes the resilience and strength within the African American community. Healing is seen as a crucial process that involves acknowledging the impact of slavery and addressing its legacy.

It’s important to note that the concept of Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome is a theoretical framework and has been met with both support and criticism. Some scholars and practitioners find value in its exploration of the historical and intergenerational impact of slavery on African Americans, while others question the generalization of experiences and the adequacy of the evidence supporting the theory.

In any case, discussions around PTSS contribute to a broader conversation on the historical and contemporary challenges faced by marginalized communities and the importance of addressing systemic issues for collective healing and well-being.

 

Who is benefiting from your unresolved trauma?

The concept of a population having unresolved trauma refers to the persistence of untreated or unaddressed collective psychological distress within a group. While it may be challenging to attribute direct benefits to any specific individual or group, certain entities or structures may indirectly benefit from the perpetuation of unresolved trauma in a population. Here are some potential beneficiaries:

Dominant Power Structures:

Existing power structures may benefit from a population with unresolved trauma because it can contribute to social fragmentation and prevent collective mobilization for social change. Divided or disempowered groups may be less likely to challenge the status quo.

Industries Providing Superficial Solutions:

Some industries may profit from offering temporary or superficial solutions to cope with unresolved trauma, such as the pharmaceutical industry (medications for mental health symptoms), rather than addressing root causes and systemic issues.

Media and Sensationalism:

Media outlets may benefit from sensationalizing or exploiting traumatic events as it attracts attention, viewership, and readership. However, this can perpetuate a cycle of trauma without addressing the underlying issues.

Correctional and Judicial Systems:

Systems that rely on punitive measures rather than addressing the root causes of behavior may benefit from a population with unresolved trauma. This can contribute to the perpetuation of cycles of incarceration without effective rehabilitation.

Divisive Political Agendas:

Political agendas that thrive on divisiveness and polarization may exploit unresolved trauma within a population to manipulate public opinion and maintain support for certain policies.

Economic Inequality:

Economic systems that perpetuate inequality may indirectly benefit from a population with unresolved trauma, as individuals dealing with psychological distress may be less likely to engage in collective action against economic injustices.

It’s essential to recognize that the beneficiaries listed above are not necessarily intentionally causing or maintaining unresolved trauma within a population. Instead, these entities may indirectly benefit from a lack of collective healing and addressing systemic issues. Addressing unresolved trauma and fostering collective healing is crucial for promoting well-being, social cohesion, and the pursuit of justice within communities.

 

Helping Someone Acknowledge the Impact of Trauma

Helping a person recognize and acknowledge the impact of trauma on their life is a sensitive and supportive process. It requires creating a safe and trusting environment, encouraging self-reflection, and providing validation. Here are some methods to assist someone in moving beyond denial and acknowledging the impact of trauma:

Active Listening:

Actively listen to the person’s narrative without judgment. Create a space where they feel heard and understood. Validate their feelings and experiences, expressing empathy and compassion.

Normalize Responses to Trauma:

Help the person understand that their reactions to trauma, including denial, are common and understandable. Normalize the range of emotional responses and coping mechanisms that individuals may employ to navigate difficult experiences.

Psychoeducation:

Provide information about trauma, its effects on mental health, and common responses to traumatic experiences. Offer resources or recommend literature that explains the connection between trauma and various emotional and behavioral responses.

Trauma-Informed Therapy:

Encourage the person to engage in trauma-informed therapy with a qualified mental health professional. Therapists with expertise in trauma can help individuals explore their experiences, process emotions, and develop coping strategies.

Grounding Techniques:

Teach grounding techniques to help the person stay present and connected to their emotions. Mindfulness exercises, deep breathing, or sensory grounding can be helpful in managing overwhelming feelings associated with trauma.

Journaling:

Encourage journaling as a means of self-reflection. Writing about experiences, emotions, and thoughts can help individuals gain insight into the impact of trauma on their lives.

Expressive Arts Therapies:

Explore expressive arts therapies, such as art, music, or drama therapy. Creative expression can provide an alternative way for individuals to process and communicate their experiences.

Support Groups:

Connect the person with support groups or communities where they can share experiences with others who have faced similar challenges. Peer support can be instrumental in breaking through feelings of isolation and denial.

Building Trust:

Foster a trusting relationship with the person. Building trust is crucial for individuals to feel safe in acknowledging and exploring their experiences. Consistency, reliability, and non-judgmental support contribute to trust-building.

Trauma Narration:

Gradually encourage the person to share their trauma narrative. This can be done in therapy or with a trusted support person. The process of verbalizing and acknowledging the trauma is an essential step in healing.

Encourage Self-Reflection:

Facilitate opportunities for self-reflection. Encourage the person to explore how their current beliefs, behaviors, and coping mechanisms may be connected to past traumatic experiences.

Safety Planning:

Collaborate on safety planning to address any concerns or fears that may arise during the acknowledgment process. Ensure that the person feels supported and has access to appropriate resources.

It’s important to approach this process with sensitivity and respect for the individual’s pace. Be mindful of potential retraumatization, and encourage seeking professional guidance when needed. A trauma-informed approach focuses on empowerment, validation, and collaboration in the journey toward acknowledgment and healing.

Becoming Trauma Informed: Supporting Trauma Survivors

 

You are Not Alone!

A lot of people feel exactly the same way you do and when I say a lot I mean a LOT. But you shouldn’t take my word for it. You only have to take a good look around. The evidence is everywhere, as long as you know what it is you’re looking for.

Don’t feel bad if you have no idea what evidence I’m referring to. Many times the obvious is hidden in plain sight. We’re born, raised, and live in a society that would prefer that you don’t think about these kinds of things too hard. The less aware you are, the better. The more stuck, helpless, hopeless, and isolated you feel, the easier you are to manipulate and control.

An Examination of the Evidence

One of the problems is that we are overworked, underpaid, and stressed the hell out. Wages haven’t kept pace with inflation, or corporate profits for that matter. Many people work more than one job, like cashing in on the gig economy, or have invested time into a side hustle. College tuition is at an all-time high while becoming less lucrative to pursue due to stagnant wages. The cost of housing is through the roof, as well as food and gas. Yet, wages and cost of living are only one symptom of the problem.

Another sign is our prison population. Anyone who’s dealt with the legal system in the U.S. knows that with a conviction comes stigma and marginalization. A criminal record makes life more difficult in many realms, like finding employment and housing. The United States has the largest prison population in the world with around 20% of the entire world’s incarcerated. This is even more shocking when you consider that we make up less than 5% of the world’s total population. Despite debtor prison being abolished nearly 2 centuries ago (in 1833), some countries have