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Trauma, the Brain, and Behavior (Part 1)

January 21, 2020

It has been too long. As I was looking back over my WordPress, I realized it has been over a year since I last wrote a blog. Since then I have had multiple publications, including two books (Difficult Conversations and Not Just Black and White). However, I wan to get back to this, blogging.

As a professor I started teaching a course this semester focused on trauma informed practice. While I have completed research and training on this topic, I feel like interacting with graduate students for an entire semester I will learn from the students. However, since beginning the course one week ago, I have already had great learning opportunities. Therefore, I feel that sharing information about trauma, the brain, and behavior should not be kept to only my students, but that I will share in frequent posts this semester.

The first topic? In Utero or Prenatal Trauma

First, what is trauma? A deeply distressing or disturbing experience. It is unique to an individual. Sometimes it ca be a single event, a series of events, or chronically enduring events.

There has been a myth for generations that some children are just inherently resilient. Research refutes this notion. It is an interaction between nature (biology) and nurture (relationships) that help ‘open’ the child to resiliency. So, adults matter. Adults in the life of children can make a different– caring, mutually respectful interactions.

These types of relationships help us as adults understand the child and where they are. Some important quotes:

“behaviors are adaptive strategies to a dysfunctional environment”

“challenging behaviors of traumatized children are driven by fear – not rebellion and defiance. Scared children do scary things because they are afraid and not because they are trying to get on the last nerve of the people who care for and teach them!”

Essentially, trauma leads to fear which leads to manipulative behavior. And trauma can happen at all parts of life– including in utero and in the first years of life during what is known in memory as “childhood amnesia.”

“It was once believed that traumatic memories in the early days of life had no impact on the life of an individual. We now know this is not true.”

So, every part of a fetus, infant, toddler, and child’s life can impact their brain development. A great video to watch is this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-m2YcdMdFw&t=171s which discusses the hand model of the brain.

Look for the next part in this trauma series.

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