“Not having a memory, doesn’t mean you don’t remember.”
An active working memory is not a requirement for an active trauma response, despite popular misconception.
Have you ever had a panic attack? The sense that something is about to happen? An inability to self-regulate and ground?
The Body Keeps The Score is not only the title of one the @nytimes multiple-chart-topping best sellers, but @thebodykeepsthescore is also where trauma actually resides. The issues are in the tissues. And absolutely none of the body’s mechanisms for fight flight require you to have conscious thought of a time or times when you felt unsafe.
The brain is a three-tiered system. Old, middle, and new brain, if you will. The old and middle aged brain systems (mammalian and reptilian) are nonverbal and preverbal requiring ZERO thought and ZERO memory in order to operationalize. The flight flight response is NOT conscious, even if you are.
I’ve been at this long enough now where I have arrived clinically at a place where if I observe trauma-based behavior and reactions/responses in the body, I approach the clinical work assuming there’s trauma in there somewhere.
But it’s HOW we define trauma that matters most. The DSM-5 goes into a long list of ways that someone can experience trauma. Truly brutal, catastrophic life events.
But what if you’re gay for example. But it’s not safe to be gay. Or maybe it even IS, but you wish so very much to be “normal”. Suddenly that separation, the inability to escape yourself becomes a daily reckoning… who is safe, who is open, who is not. Hypervigilence on an intravenous drip. It’s endless, the shapeshifting.
So the body starts to align to the possibility of threat of fear, whether we are conscious and aware of our adaptations or not.
Vets come home from Afghanistan. But what is an abusive parent coming home each day is your reality? Or a disconnected parent? Afghanistan becomes home. And we normalize that. Adapt. Consciously or not the body’s intelligence will wire for safety. Even if you don’t think about it.
Learn to listen to what your body tells you. Turns out it’s WAY smarter than you think.
Funny how that works.