What happens to your brain after trauma?

energy healing science of spirituality self healer spiritual awakening trauma healing trauma informed Mar 08, 2023
What happens to your brain after trauma

There's something that happens inside of you when you experience trauma. It changes your perception, limits your imagination, creates emotional numbness, and shifts your relationship with the core of who you are. Trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in your past. Trauma is the internal imprint left by that experience on the mind, body, brain, and soul.

What is trauma? Dr. Gabor Maté, a renowned addiction expert, speaker, and author sought after for his expertise on trauma, addiction, stress, and childhood development explains how "trauma is not what happened to you. It's a result of what happens inside of you. Trauma can also be inflicted not by what happens to you but by what doesn't happen to you that should happen. So that when your needs aren't met, that can create a wound as well."

When you experience trauma, it fundamentally changes how you perceive the world; how you think, and what you think about, and it even impacts your capacity to think at all. Traumatized people become stuck. Someone who is traumatized by an experience will manifest experiences in their lives as if the trauma were still going on. All your new experiences are tainted by thoughts, emotions, and experiences of the past. You feel challenged in your growth process because it's hard for your brain and body to integrate new experiences into your life.

You experience the world with a different nervous system. Now, all of your energy is focused on suppressing the pain of the past, making it difficult for you to enjoy the present moment. When your body is using all of it's energy to suppress the past, it can result in a whole range of physical symptoms, including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and other autoimmune diseases. This is why it is SO critical for trauma treatment to engage the entire system; body, mind, and brain. That's why I include a monthly transformational breathwork journey in The Breaker of CHAAAINS Trauma Healing Community -  healing requires mind, body, soul... and brain.

it was really helpful for me to become aware of how my brain functioning shifted after experiencing trauma. It gave me so much more compassion for myself and why I was acting and thinking the way I was. It supported me in getting the right type of healing, too. This is a condensed, trauma brain 101, explanation to help you understand your body's response to trauma more deeply.

The brain is built from the bottom up and there are 3 main parts.

1. REPTILIAN BRAIN [mostly unconscious]

This part of your brain that develops in the womb, organizes all our basic life functions, and it is where our survival instincts live. It's responsible for the basics like hunger, breathing, sleeping, heart rate, etc. If your sleep is disturbed, your bowels don’t move properly, if you always feel hungry, or if being touched makes you uncomfortable - the body is not in balance potentially as a result of trauma. This part of the brain is also focused "all about me", making sure that all your survival needs are met. This part of the brain is highly responsive to threats, exploring our environment and responding to danger.

What happens to this part of the brain after trauma?

There is a part of the brain called the Amygdala that receives information extremely fast and quickly and automatically processes it as a potential threat to our survival or not. When the Amygdala identifies a situation as a threat, it releases powerful stress chemicals, like cortisol and adrenaline, to help us fight the stressor. You can get stuck in a fight-or-flight response and the long-term effects of constantly elevated stress hormones can include memory and attention problems, irritability, sleep disorders, and even manifest into physical health issues.

Trauma also increases the risk of misinterpreting whether a particular situation is dangerous or safe and can result in a lot of misunderstandings in relationships. If you cannot accurately sense whether the intentions of other people are good or bad, those misattuned readings of others can lead to a lot of painful conflicts where you end up in situations that negatively impact your life. For example, when this part of the brain is functioning effectively, you can be in complex work environments and quickly assess how people are feeling and continually adjust your behavior accordingly.

 2. MAMMALIAN BRAIN [mostly subconscious]

Also known as the Limbic System, this part of your brain develops after you are born and it is the seat of your emotions. It is known as the mammalian brain because all animals that nurture their young possess this part of the brain. It is shaped in response to our earliest interactions with the world. Whatever happens to us as a baby when we cry, smile, crawl, explore, protest, or try to get our needs met contributes to how we perceive our world on a subconscious level. We develop our relationships with others based on how our actions were reflected back to us at an early age, being "good" or "bad". We tend to create environments in our adult lives that mirror how the emotional environment was for us as a child under the age of 7. But these structures can also be significantly impacted by later experiences for better by loving relationships or for worse through bullying or neglect.

What happens to this part of the brain after trauma?

When you experience trauma, your emotional brain is impacted by the experience and you could feel a little crazy when you experience intense and barely controllable urges and emotions or on the opposite spectrum, feel totally numb. This creates shame, thinking that there's something with you, and that becomes your primary state of consciousness. This is the lowest state you can be at and will attract more shameful experiences into your life. When I began to understand my trauma brain, it helped alleviate a lot of the shame I was holding. That my actions were not who I was but a result of how my brain and body was able to cope with what happened to me.

When you feel emotionally numb, there's a desperate desire to feel love but you actually feel emotionally distant from everyone. It feels like your heart is frozen to the point where you can't even feel it. It's hard to feel anything except for the extreme moments of rage or the depths of shame. You have little to no energy. You feel aimless in life, with no sense of purpose in the world. Sometimes, people can try to mask the depth of numbness with the hyperactivity of trying to be busy all the time - doing anything to avoid the pain on the inside. Avoidance will get you deeper into a spiral of pain... Sensing, naming, and identifying what’s going on inside is the first step to healing

3. NeoCortex [mostly conscious]

This is the part of the brain responsible for executive decision-making, reasoning, understanding, invention, and purposeful behavior. This part of the brain makes us unique in the animal kingdom, giving us the ability to use language, have abstract thinking, absorb a vast amount of information, and make meaning of it. This part of the brain allows us to reflect and plan for the future, imagining different scenarios and predicting what will happen if we take one action over another. What is crucial to understand is that this is also the part of the brain that has the capacity for empathy - the ability to feel into someone else

What happens to this part of the brain after trauma?

When your NeoCortex is impacted by trauma, people become creatures of habit, their relationships become superficial, and they get stuck in their routines. You lose sight of your imagination, innovation, and wonder for the world. It is also this part of the brain that stops us from doing things that are not supportive of our well-being, could embarrass us, or hurt others. You don't have to eat every time you're hungry, sexually engage with everyone that arouses your desires, or blow up every time you're angry.


Trauma impacts our ability to feel like ourselves and to feel fully alive. I tried for years to heal trauma on my own and I realized through my journey that it's essential for me to learn how to heal within healthy relationships. Your brain needs to access the core felt experience that's stored in your body to liberate it. You don't always need the story, you just need to feel the pain.  Your nervous system needs co-regulation to re-pattern that relationships are safe. This community was created to help provide tools and resources to support you in healing trauma. You were never meant to do this alone.

Join The Energetic Revolution's private trauma-healing community for self-lead resources and, receive healings & teachings from Tanin LIVE EVERY MONTH:
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