So what is PTSD?
So what is PTSD? First, PTSD is also being called PTSS, for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome - same thing, different name.
PTSD is what our brains do when they still have Trauma Imprint, or Trauma Residue back in the emotional brain. With PTSD, our brains over-react to things in the present because the emotional brain can’t distinguish those things from the past.
Of course the logical brain knows good and well that those events are over, but the emotional brain has no sense of time, so if the nervous system never got a chance to “complete and close” a particular event, that event remains “open” for the nervous system and the emotional brain. This happens above all with events that have moved us into Fight-or-Flight.
So the fact that Trauma Residue can get stuck, and brain files can stay “open” has to do with the way our brains are wired. And the open files are like clutter, or interference. That material gets in the way of processing new incoming data. The emotional brain can’t tell past from present, and kicks into the same Fight-or-Flight response. And these present-day scenarios that kick us into the same response are our “triggers.”
An open file like this also means that not only is the brain hypersensitive in any situation that looks like, seems like, feels like the original situation, but also that the brain may spend much of its time still in Fight-or-Flight.
So not only do similar situations “trigger” Fight-or-Flight responses, but the Residue can cause the brain to be in a state of sustained anxiety or ongoing hyper-vigilance. Results: insomnia, nightmares, and flashbacks. Also: irritability, emotional outbursts, trouble concentrating. We may feel constantly on guard; we may feel numb. These are the “symptoms” of PTSD, the results of the Residue.
What we hold in our brains we can also hold in our bodies. Sometimes PTSD causes the body to be rigid, armored. The body not easily yield, or “give up its position.” The muscles and tissues are also on guard, and may even hold some of their own residue.
Our postures and positioning nearly always reflect some of our deep imprints. You’ve seen the person with the shoulders up by the ears all the time? Well…that may be a long time of anxiety, or even fear.
We know now that if we open a memory just a bit — but not enough to push someone into the Fight-or-Flight response — we have a window of 2-5 hours to guide the emotional brain to reformulate and close the trauma events, so that they are refiled and stored differently from then on. This is Memory Reconsolidation work.
As a trauma-informed practitioner, I approach PTSD with the techniques of Memory Reconsolidation and Emotional Triggers Treatment (EmotionalTriggersTreatment.com). Without reliving any scenario in detail, and without going into the Fight-or-Flight response, we use guided imagery exercises that allow the brain to finish the original scenario. In this way, the brain finally has the opportunity to resolve, close, and move out of that part of the past.
Many of us have not just one such experience, but a number of them. We may have been exposed over and over again to disturbing events, even deeply threatening events. But instead of going through those experiences one by one, we can actually “bundle” them by linking the ones that have the same feelings. Events that have produced rage, for example, or shame, or guilt, or anxiety, can all be addressed as one bundle and finally closed.
Because this approach finally closes the events for the emotional brain, much of the charge that was associated with what happened drains away. Clients generally find that intrusive images, sensations, and disturbed feelings subside. Without the Residue, “automatic brain” no longer takes over so readily, and a lot of the edginess we may have been holding drops off.
So welcome to an approach to PTSD that allows the brain to finally close experiences that have been left open and charged for too long.