Emotions and Trauma

It is not what we’ve been taught

If you can’t tell yet, Center for Peace tackles the difficult topics, myths and outright wrong theories and models being used in psychology, mental health and the so-called “addiction-recovery” community. This post is going to be another CFP game changer.

Emotions Explained

It is important to note that science isn’t in agreement about how to define emotions, or how they work, including notable scientists from Darwin to James. Even so, we have plenty of research literature to show we have been teaching it wrong.

What we should be understanding about the brain and emotions.
  • We are all emotional beings with varying expressions
  • Emotions are processed the same regardless of gender — it is the coding that differs
  • Emotions are not universal to all humans and cultures — and therefore facial expressions cannot be assessed by the face
  • Emotions are not a reaction in the brain – they are made in the brain
  • Emotions are not hardwired
  • Emotions are experiences as opposed to reactions
  • Emotions don’t happen to you – you are in control of them
  • The amygdala and prefrontal cortex are not in a battle to conquer emotions
  • Feelings are properties of emotion – or coding – feelings are not synonymous with emotion
  • Affect or mood is our consciousness — this exists in the brain and body

Example: The sensation of your heart beating is not felt in your chest, it is felt in your brain.

Emotions and the Brain

The brain is a critical system. It manages all body metabolic system stases. When the body experiences some discomfort or comfort, the impression or the message is communicated to the brain. 

The brain calculates how much the body needs metabolically to bring the system into balance. The brain then creates a story for what is going on in the presenting experience. The story creation draws upon past coded experiences, things you have learned to help determine what is being presented in the body currently. If it is new, the brain will make the best conclusion possible from the data presented and what is on file in cognitive storage.

All our thoughts, feelings, decisions have a former code created from a former experience. Each of these pieces of information are evaluated in the present to determine if it is the same or different. 

This is all critical information when the brain requires this data for metabolic balancing.

Depression, For Example

When symptoms of depression are present, you may notice a lack of energy in several systems. You may feel tired. You may have difficulty concentrating, or finding joy in what is happening in your life. These conditions are costly for the brain. 

It doesn’t always mean something is wrong (though it can), what it does mean is that it will require a lot from your brain to return your body into balance. Managing the emotions of this experience can be difficult if we are thinking about emotions in the wrong way.

Your Brain Works for You

Since the brain’s number one job is in systems management, understanding that your brain is making emotion based on all the previously recorded information – you can adjust the coding so that what is currently being presented to the brain has an opportunity to adjust. 

We don’t have to stay stuck in past experiences. We adjust those experiences through a process of re-coding and re-filing. It might be difficult work at first, but before long, this becomes automatic data for your brain to use for future experiences.

This gives you a process and tools to change – or be different.

The Impact of Others on Our Coding

The actions of others have an impact on our choice of coding. The good news about this is that we have the ability and the tools to heal ourselves so that we can respond and feel differently in future situations.

People cannot “make’ us feel anything, but that doesn’t mean we are not influenced by the behaviors of others – especially when the words or weaponized emotional tactics are targeted towards us.

Getting to the Trauma Truth

One of the most metabolically expensive codes we create is around traumatic experiences. Trauma is a coding, just like any other coding we have in our file. 

When an adverse experience, especially one that occurs repeatedly as it does when you experience targeted partner abuse©, each occurrence reinforces the data coded in the brain so that each time you are in another potential experience, the brain recognizes what is taking place. Each experience with abuse would be a possible threat the brain needs to address because the trauma is in the construction in the brain – it doesn’t live in the body!

The Body Does NOT Keep the Score

This is a myth based on a notion that we have some animal component in our brain that scores the body with trauma when adverse experiences occur.

It isn’t the body that needs healing – it’s the brain.

Research from the University of Melbourne suggests that an unhealthy body may be a better indicator of mental illness than the structure of the brain. This also supports the relationship between the brain and body in coding experience and system management.

Since experiences are constructed in the brain, the work that needs to be done needs to happen in the brain. This is because the coding in the brain is what explains the experience in the body. 

Though some of us have decades of trauma coding, we aren’t trapped in these previous codes. The plasticity of the brain means we can free ourselves from the intensity of a life in trauma.

Does this Mean Trauma is in Our Head

Before you shoot the messenger – please understand that all our experiences, emotions, predictions, and codes are in our head. No matter what language we use to describe the process – let’s view the brain as the “comptroller” – the officer who examines and supervises the expenditures. 

All the experiences we have, from the food we taste, to the beautiful views of a mountain, or the cool, calm relaxing cadence of the riverside – the brain is the comptroller of these kinds of deposits as well as the debits.

Trauma creates huge debits from our metabolic reserves.

Changing Trauma Predictions

Because trauma memory can show up on repeat – torturing us – we can exercise the gift of coding management to teach the brain to re-code. 

There are some helpful tools – some of them you may already use.

  • A good therapist or coach who really understands trauma – and how the brain works so that you are working with your brain/body systems and not against it.
  • Gentle physical care – since the body is expressing trauma experiences to the brain, physical self-care in the form of deep breathing, yoga, healing eating and sleeping habits.
  • Bi-lateral/frequency music and other grounding type protocols.
  • Limited or no-contact – sometimes the best way to give your mind time and space to heal is not being around or not communicating with the abuser.

As you work on some or all these options above – re-coding the thoughts and emotions being experienced is a big part of working through the trauma. 

And likely the most difficult.

We’ve read all the books, heard all the podcasts on trauma. Undoing all the false details and myths on top of restructuring the actual experiences feels like a whole new battle. 

Take heart, the coaches at Center for Peace are prepared to help you navigate the road ahead.

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