Friday, May 21, 2010

Trama and the Limbic System

The limbic system is the part of our nervous system that is responsible for our survival as well as emotions like fear and anger. It is also involved in feelings of pleasure such as eating and sex. It is a complex set of structures that lies on both sides of the thalamus just below the cerebrum and includes the hypothalamus, hippocampus, amygdala and thalamus.

The amygdala and hippocampus are part of the limbic system and play a major role in our memory. The amygdala determines what memories are stored and where they are stored while the hippocampus is responsible for sending out memories to the appropriate areas of our brain for long term storage. The hippocampus retrieves the appropriate memories when it is necessary. The amygdala is involved in our emotional response.

The limbic system has an important role as it helps in the self preservation and survival of the species. it is responsible for the fight or flight response. If parts of the limbic system are impacted negatively, it can strongly influence or disrupt normal social behavior.

According to the article, "The Biological Response To Psychic Trauma", because the limbic system is the main area of the Central Nervous System where memories are processed, this is the most likely place to find an explanation of memory issues as a result of trauma. The hippocampus does not fully mature until at least the third or fourth year of life but the amygdala matures much earlier in life. In the first few years of life, the quality of events but not necessarily the context with which they happened can be remembered. Severe traumatic events of prolonged stress can disrupt the normal processes of the hippocampus which then disrupt the memory process by creating fearful associations without context, yet the feelings are still associated with the memories.

The main thing to keep in mind is that there are memories stored throughout our body and that connect to our mind. These are stored as emotions and sensations. Our fears get locked in with these memory sensations and so in order to understand our emotions and to understand the fear we hold, we must go in to the body. Only trying to access these memories through cognitive or mental exercises, is like only filling up a water glass a third of the way to quench your thirst after being outside all day. While you may add water to your body this way, you're going to still suffer from thirst. So it is with cognitive functions. If you only address part of the underlying events that reside in the body, than you're missing the greatest part of it.

Many claim that they have the right way to heal and they try to prove this. However, just having emotions come up or feeling nice or relaxed or seeing certain conditions change does not necessarily mean you are at the root of what is going on. If there is not a grounded body connection to the method of healing where you go in and embrace the fear, you are missing the point as a healer. There has to be a connection to the body, through the mind to arrive at the place of release, surrender and healing. Without all these elements, true healing is not taking place.

For More Information:
Reference: http://www.cirp.org/library/psych/vanderkolk2/
Anxiety Research (U.K.), Volume 4: Pages 199-212
The Biological Response to Psychic Trauma: Mechanisms and Treatment Of Intrusion and Numbing


2 comments:

  1. thank you for this. in my work teaching yoga to SGBV trauma survivors, understanding this process is wildly helpful.

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  2. I was mobbed at work. Did two things to heal my limbic
    system:

    1. Primal scream (screaming, crying). That fixed my
    brainstem and right part of the brain.
    2. Still had broken neural path behind left orbital of eye. So I focused on this part of my brain and re-programmed my brain by imagining shaking hands with all my tormentors. I overwrote my old memory with a new one.
    FOcused on this for about 1 hr. I feel 100 % better.

    My mobbing took place over about 4 days. It was intense.
    I hit rock bottom. Could not concentrate. I was a shell
    of myself. Even left-brain healing through reading did not help. I thought: Am I going to be broken for the rest of my life? But the above to things helped so much.
    Hopefully this can help someone else. If you are ever verbally abused, EXCUSE YOURSELF FROM THE SITUATION. Your
    health/life is on the line. Finally, forming new relationships helped me. THis makes sense because it forms new neural pathways. BUt you really have to fix the old one first by thinking of new paths.

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