Updated: Sep 13, 2019
Its estimated that 70% of us will experience full on trauma in our lives1.
Trauma is brought on by a multitude of issues in modern society2:
• Divorce/custody battles
• Sudden death of a loved one
• Sudden, serious illness or injury
• Impending death of a loved one
• Physical, sexual abuse
• Neglect, especially childhood
• Domestic violence • Stalking • Chronic marginalization
• School or gang violence
• Losses of income, assets or businesses • Immigration
• War • Natural Disasters • Severe motor vehicle accidents • Witnessing or hearing about any of the above
And it usually triggers some very nasty symptoms and side effects2:
• Drug and alcohol abuse
• Mental fog • Indiscriminate sexual behavior • Self-harm and suicidal gestures
• Suicide • Dissociation • Fighting • Continued contact with the abuser
• Chronic freeze response • Avoidance or withdrawal from others
• Chronic flight response • Depression • Procrastination • Mental "fog"
On the path to trauma recovery, the #1 thing to remember is that trauma is NOT a predominantly mental issue.
Rather trauma is a physical, body issue that occurs when we endure shock3.
Your body has literally gone into a type of trauma induced shock. And, the longer your body/brain is left untreated, the greater the risk that this physical shock will permanently reprogram your body and your mind.
When we experience trauma, our body triggers stress hormones such as catecholamines (epinephrine, also known as adrenaline), cortisol, opioid’s and oxytocin and it decreases calmness/happiness/rational neurotransmitters/hormones like serotonin and dopamine and the amino acid, GABA2.
Time for the eyes to gloss over, right?
But it’s important for us to recognize, this is primarily a bodily reaction. And these bodily reactions happen for a reason; primarily to create a state of hypervigilance and to marshal all of our conscious and subconscious brain power to be on the lookout for more risk.
These bodily reactions are all about self-love and self-preservation.
Take a moment to reflect on that, because it is foundational to understanding and recovering from trauma.
All the stress, anxiety, mental fog, lack of conscious concentration, restlessness, sleeplessness, procrastination, lack of appetite, mental anguish (which is a result of heightened sensitivity) and every other miserable symptom associated with trauma is a result of your body & mind loving you and wanting you to be protected.
On one level, your body is powering up all your hypervigilant skills to look for additional new danger and elevate your focus on the recent pain you just incurred. You are at a hyper state of engagement. And for those of us who have experienced trauma, it can be the most exhausting, mental fog inducing side effect.
Why is it so exhausting? Because you go through life being “there” and not “here.” “There” is the trauma and most likely when it occurred or began. “Here” is where life is right now and right here, all the joy and happiness right there for us that those of us experiencing trauma can’t touch and experience.
Can’t touch and experience because we are “there.”3
The body has created a new software “program” in your brain. You’ve been reprogrammed to be hypervigilant, anxious, uneasy, unsettled and fearful. And you’ve been reprogrammed to be much more reactive to any triggers to elevate those symptoms.
All out of self-love.
The problem is that this new program can remain for a long period of time if it is not addressed.
Studies show, the sooner the better in addressing trauma stress. Left chronically untreated, it becomes more and more difficult to conquer and eliminate.3
So, it’s up to us to make a conscious decision to reprogram our brains back to a safe state.
And, try as you might, you can’t “will” or “talk” or “talk therapy” your body/mind back to a solid foundation post-trauma. In fact, we’ll detail in later posts that the more you think about and discuss your trauma, the deeper it becomes engrained and “programmed” into your body/brain system.3
So, how do we reprogram ourselves?
We reprogram ourselves by following the natural, paleo path to mental healing.
First, we need to understand the concept of “Survival Of The Fittest.”4
Whether you believe that humans first started walking this earth in the Middle Paleolithic Period (200,000 years ago) or believe in a creationist timeline of around 12,000 years ago, our ancestors have had multiple generations (at least 300) and have developed specific survival skills.
The law of natural selection (Survival of the Fittest), holds that two like organisms with varying proclivities or characteristics will have different capacities to survive. Overtime, clusters of the organisms with the superior characteristics (genetic) will survive and thrive and the clusters of the organisms with inferior characteristics will perish.
In a simple sense, our ancestors were more fertile, harder working, more tribal, more caring, more aggressively protective and more attuned to risk than the rest of the humans around them.
Our ancestors had better, stronger reactions to survive risk as well as the ability to overcome risk and trauma and get back to the business of day-to-day survival.
Those that didn’t have those characteristics and proclivities passed on smaller and smaller chunks of their gene pool, until they disappeared into the genetic dust bin of history.
In short, our ancestors were horny, workaholic, tribal, aggressive, paranoid family people who reacted strongly to risk.
Sound like thanksgiving get-togethers?
The ability to recover from trauma and quickly get back to a normal life is programmed in you through countless generations of surviving and thriving due to quick healing.
If one group of the tribe is huddled in fear in their huts after a terrible blizzard that killed some of the tribe and another group of the tribe is out building a fire, hunting for food and taking clothes off of the dead people to warm themselves and their kids, well it’s obvious which characteristic will be passed down over time.
The problem is that in modern society we’ve undermined the immediacy of dealing with trauma and the physical, emotional and mental signaling we give to our bodies to drop their heightened awareness and get on with life.
We’ve disconnected the natural path to get back to living, working, smiling, laughing, making babies, taking care of family members and generally enjoying the journey.
The way we fix that modern society disconnect is through a methodical, physical, emotional and mental program to retrigger and reprogram the bodies Survival of the Fittest characteristics back to believing the body is safe.
This “reprogramming” has to happen at three levels:
1) The physical level. We need to take actions and engage in activities which will lower the bodies stress hormones and foster an increase of calmness/happiness neurotransmitters/hormones.
2) The mental level. We need to do an in depth, conscious and subconscious reprogramming of our safety and create a new, positive, future fixation.
3) The emotional level. We need to “feel” the love and safety of the tribe and, most important of all, we need small tribal missions and a big, mentally consuming tribal project.
We need a life mission.
Paleo Freedom is about teaching and fostering that journey and helping people heal quickly and permanently from trauma, creating a community of trauma champions who can share their stories of healing and success and creating new, healing and emboldening life missions for trauma champions.
3 VAN DERKOL, BESSEL A, M.D., The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body In The Healing Of Trauma, first edition, Penguin Books, 2014.