(This is poorly thrown together and not what I wanted it to be, but some things must be done in haste or that won’t be done at all…)
Approximately 50% of the population will experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives. While reactions to trauma can vary widely, and not everyone will develop PTSD, trauma can greatly change the way the brain functions.
Most tend to think of trauma as mainly an overwhelmingly negative event of the physical variety, downplaying the insidiousness of emotional and psychological trauma. But studies show that brain function is altered by the effects of emotional wounds just as much as they are by physical violence.
I never would have considered myself “traumatized” before the year 2012.
At that time, my sister was interning for a therapist who specialized in right brain therapy as a requisite for her counseling degree. Based on scientific research, this therapist devised a very unconventional way to assess psychological trauma – by having patients intuitively color a map of a brain.
When I was invited to color a brain map, I had no idea it had anything to do with trauma. I was more or less told to color the map however I wanted and that it would somehow reveal “how I do life.”
If you’ve read my other blog posts, you probably know I’m a sucker for these personality assessment type things. So I came to this thinking it was innocuous, completely unprepared for what my brain would disclose.
My sister emailed me the analysis and I found it distressing.
Not only did its accuracy make me feel vulnerable, but it made me feel like there was something very wrong with me. In time, I came to realize that the results weren’t me but rather a child’s attempt at self-preservation (for me, these coping mechanisms were established in childhood).
Below you’ll find the analysis. It is very personal, but I am no longer sensitive to it or identify with it, so I have no qualms about sharing. I do so to encourage others to confront their shadows, but also because it is the foundation for many of the ideas, questions, and curiosities that color my work:
The black in your amygdale is an alarm system. It’s all about safety. When you have incoming information that triggers the trauma you’ve experienced it says “here we go again.”
The pink in your olfactory bulb area – the area extending toward your eye. It’s the area that receives external input. It’s the area that interprets sensory input. The pink means emotional. He said it’s the worst way to interpret because it’s too sensitive. The least amount of trouble you will interpret as your world is falling apart.
The blue in the motor cortex is how you do relationships. You are not open and very self-protective.
Green in the frontal cortex – the way you function on a day to day basis is heavily influenced by your family of origin, the way you grew up.
Orange in the sensory cortex is your identity. You are a very fearful, anxious person. You are aware of how anxious you are. He said pretty fearful person.
The green in your visual cortex area next to the orange color. Is the area that is your outlook on life. Your outlook is based on how you grew up – family influences this area.
There is also an indication of sexual trauma – rape or sexual abuse.
Red this gets this person in trouble.
Yellow in the inner part is your faith but it’s not having an impact or affect on how you do life. Not out where you can use it.
The purple indicates that you feel like you have to protect yourself. You have a high level of self-sufficiency and really don’t see a need for God. You despise weakness and neediness. Don’t like too much emotion. Want to stay in emotional control. There is a rejection of pain or hurt even when the presence of pain and hurt is there. Purple is an indication that there was neglect in childhood and that you had to fend for yourself as a child.
The most interesting part of the analysis was the mention of sexual trauma.
I have this memory of something inappropriate happening to me as a child, but I never knew if it was real or imagined, and I still don’t, as I don’t remember much besides a location. I still don’t know what to think about it, but it made me realize that I do disassociate a lot (a very common symptom of trauma).
I find that most of my brain’s programming that wasn’t so apparent to me on a conscious level has always been very clearly defined in my dreams – particularly recurring ones. Dreams in houses are a staple for me. For years, it was me in my childhood home and either someone would break in or they would stand outside the door and try to convince me to let them in. And then there were dreams of me on the run and hiding from some mysterious organization. Most recently, it’s been me lost in big buildings unable to find my way out.
The brilliance of creative dreaming is that if you can change your dreams and alter your subconscious patterns, then you can change your response to the experiences of your waking life.
Subconscious programming runs automatically without you even realizing it and it keeps you re-experiencing the past. The good news is that the brain is plastic. As easily as it can be damaged and stuck on loop, it can be resolved – but it takes effort, repetition, focus, and time.
The use of non-verbal and symbolic forms of communication such as collaging, writing, drawing, and/or music can be very effective for rewiring the brain.
I find lucid dreaming to be the fastest and most effective way to let go of the past and begin thinking and perceiving differently. It’s intriguing and fascinating, much like being a detective of your own life, trying to solve the case of you.