In this podcast (episode #497) and blog, I talk to Jessica, a concerned parent, about childhood trauma. This is part of a series I am doing on questions you submitted for my new book on children’s mental health.
This was Jessica’s question:
“What happens to a child’s brain after they have survived Domestic Violence? How long does it take to reword their brain? Do they then have to fight wanting to use violence as an adult? Is it hereditary? My children and I are survivors of domestic violence and have been safe and free for 13 years. That being said, I’m wondering how long it takes for children (Now 15, 20, 24 and 26) to heal their brain?”
It is important to understand that everything a person experiences, regardless of their age, will be wired into their mind, brain and body. This means that what happens to us does affect us. However, this is not a permanent thing. What happens to us will always be there, but what that looks like in our minds, brains and bodies can change.
This means that we have the power to change the impact our experiences have on us. As I always say, we can’t control the circumstances of life, but we can choose how we react to these circumstances and the impact that they have on us. This is true whether we are adults or children. The brain is neuroplastic, which means it can change. This is incredibly hopeful, because it means we do not have to stay prisoner to the past.
However, this doesn’t just “happen”. We have to learn how to manage our minds and the impact our experiences have on us, which it is why it is so important to teach our children from youth how to self-regulate. This is one of the best gifts that we can give them as parents and guardians, one that will help them thrive not only as children but as adults too.
It is important to remember that, with or without mind-management, children wire life experiences into the neural networks of their brain and throughout their body with their mind, as do adults. This process changes the mind, brain, and body—it has an impact which will manifest itself in how a child functions mentally and physically. We are psychoneurobiological creatures, and the mind, brain, and body are intricately connected.
When we help our children become more self-regulated in every way, including how they manage their emotions, behaviors, and perspectives, we teach them how to tune in to the messages coming from their mind, brain, and body, and how to use these to their advantage. As we do this, we create a space for our children to discuss and process what they see and hear, both online and in real life. We help them get comfortable with facing the uncomfortable and teach them how to embrace their emotions and receive the messages those feelings bring them instead of being afraid of feeling sad or confused. In this way, we avoid pathologizing childhood and help them embrace their humanity. We give them the tools to deal with the “messiness” of life. When they learn how to manage their mind, they can make the mind-brain-body connection work for them, which will help them deal with the impact their experiences have on them, no matter their age.
The same can be said for adult children that have experienced childhood trauma. Thankfully, it is never too late to learn mind management. We cannot change what happened to us, but we can change what this looks like inside of us and how it plays out into our future, regardless of our age or what has happened to us. Yes, trauma can play out through the generations, but this is only if it is not managed. Trauma is not just “hereditary”— it is not a curse we have no control over. We can break cycles of trauma by learning how to manage our minds.
However, it is important to remember that there is no set timeline for this process. The healing journey will look different for everyone. There is no right or wrong amount of time involved in this process. For some of us, managing our trauma can take a lifetime, but this is not a prison sentence. It simply means that each day we are growing stronger and more resilient as we face our past. The more we practice this kind of self-regulation, the easier it will be as we build new, healthy thought patterns over the toxic trauma of our past.
To do this, I recommend using the Neurocycle mind management method I have developed and studied over the past three decades, which I discuss in detail in my latest book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess and my app Neurocycle. The Neurocycle is a way to harness your thinking power that I have developed and researched over the past three decades. It has 5 steps:
1) Gather awareness of how you feel. This starts with understanding the signals that your mind, brain, and body send you when you feel that your past is affecting you. These signals alert you TO protect you.
There are four main signals: your emotions, your behaviors, your physical symptoms, and your perspective/outlook. Some examples are:
- Feelings of irritability and/or hopelessness (an emotional warning signal)
- Ignoring calls, texts or emails (a behavioral warning signal)
- The world feels more negative/depressing (a perspective warning signal)
- Muscle aches and/or pains (a physical warning signal)
We all experience emotions and feelings in different ways under different circumstances—they can keep changing even in the space of one day or hour. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with you if you feel you’re “exploding” with emotions! You’re simply experiencing something that needs urgent attention.
2) Reflect on how you feel. Why do you think you feel this way?
3) Write down your reflections to help organize your thinking.
4) Recheck: think about what your thoughts and feelings are trying to tell you. What does it say about how you view the situation? What is your “antidote”— how will you work through what is affecting you? Look for clues in your writing, then start to reframe/reconceptualize the way you are thinking about what happened and how you can improve the situation.
5) Do your active reach. This is a thought or action you need to practice daily to help you reconceptualize what you thought about in the previous step - that is, what you are going to do each day to give yourself the time and mental space needed to heal.
For more on healing childhood trauma, listen to my podcast with Jessica (episode #497). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
Preorder my new book How to Help Your Child Clean Up Their Mental Mess before August 7th, 2023 to receive exclusive bonuses, including access to a 1-hour webinar + Q&A session on back-to-school tips and strategies to help your child mentally prepare for the year ahead! You can preorder here.
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2:04 Jessica’s story
3:18 How our experiences affect us mentally & physically
4:00 Why it is so important to manage our minds
4:30 Childhood trauma through the generations
10:20 Mind management is a lifelong journey
11:00 What self-regulation & healing looks like in the mind, brain & body
29:00 Therapy & trauma
32:00 Healing takes time!
36:30 How to use the Neurocycle to manage trauma
This podcast and blog are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.