Getting It Right: 9 Secrets of Your Brain Under Stress
Judy Byington, MSW, LCSW, ret.
Author, Twenty-Two Faces
Secret One: Trauma Can Result in Your Mind Dissociating From Life
Have you, or someone in your life, undergone a traumatic experience? How does your brain function under stress? Are you in an emotionally abusive relationship? Can your mind protect you during abuse?
Although the below also relate to other problems such as depression, if you find yourself answering yes to the majority of questions, you may want to look into whether or not you suffer from Dissociation.
- Undergone sexual, physical or emotional abuse or disaster, trauma or an ongoing crises?
- Have Panic Attacks and/or sleep problems?
- Feel all alone or isolate yourself to avoid stressful situations?
- Hide your anxieties and fears from others?
- Purposely put on a “Happy Face” to avoid your real feelings of continual depression?
- Withdraw from relationships with loved ones?
- Have continuing nightmares about traumatic situations?
- Have problems learning and/or achieving?
- Do you drink or abuse drugs to avoid problems?
- Do you have trouble planning ahead?
- Do you have suicidal thoughts?
- Have excessive daydreaming or blank periods in life?
Secret Two: What is Going on?
Dissociation is the mind’s natural reaction to trauma. Sufferers show symptoms ranging from simple daydreaming to forgetfulness to multiple personalities. Jenny Hill from Garden Grove, California, endured the most extreme type of dissociation:
Hill claims that as a five year-old she was raped, tortured, watched another child murdered and threatened with death if she told. Since the child was not allowed to process her stressful experiences and in order to cope, her thinking patterns separated into twenty-two multiple personalities. The alters held her traumatic memories and repressed them into her subconscious, not to come forward until over twenty years later. As she grew up these personalities continued to “protect” her by coming forth when she was under duress. Alter takeovers caused the young woman to miss minuets, hours, days, even months of time, yet she had no idea as to what happened, nor how or why it did.
Secret Three: What is Repressed Memory?
Repressed memory is a survival skill of a traumatized brain. It is said that the more severe the trauma, the younger the abused and the closer a victim’s relationship is to an abuser, the greater impact trauma has on brain functioning. “Brain wavelengths have been found to be abnormal in an abused child”. There is a 5.8% to 6.5% reduction in the area of the mind that deals with memory and emotion: the hippocampus” (Teicher, 2012).
As a survival skill neurons formed under trauma tend to isolate themselves and repress into the subconscious. With still-maturing brains and little control over their lives, children subjected to prolonged mistreatment are the most likely to develop dissociation and multiple personalities.
Like limbs of a tree branching out from Hill’s core persona, three alter personality families formed from her specific abuse experiences. One family was headed by an alter over sexual abuse who called herself J.J.; another family came from the personality in charge of her ritual abuse, Angelic, and there was a family of one who was gang raped naming herself Vennessa. These chief alters possibly grew their own branches or dendrite spines and closeted traumatic experiences within their three separate multiple personality families. The unwanted memories were not to become cathartic until Hill felt safe inside a psychiatric hospital over twenty years later.
Secret Four: It is Natural to Deny the Reality of Dissociation and Other
Hill was not diagnosed with DID until at age twenty-four after she entered the Utah State Psychiatric Hospital for a nursing job interview, changed personalities and awoke nine days later as an inpatient. During her year-long treatment there she had almost total recall of an abusive childhood including validation of her alter personalities. In the thirty years since, however, she has not received adequate treatment because of professional confusion about the DID diagnosis, denial on the causes of her dissociation and lack of trained therapists on the disorder. This denial, unfortunately, is apparent in many if not most, cases of Dissociation.
Secret Five: Our Society Tends to Deny the Reality of Dissociation and
other Stress-Related Symptoms.
Our 21st century society tends to deny effects of severe trauma on the psyche, thus proper diagnosis of stress-related diagnoses remains a stumbling block to effective treatment.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was not defined until 1980 and Dissociate Identity Disorder (DID) wasn’t seen in the American Psychiatric Manuel, the DSM-IV, until 1994. Yet back in the late 1800’s Sigmund Freud defined repressed memories and Dissociation as defense mechanisms of the brain while extensive human experimentation was done on the disorders during World War II.
To perfect his mind-control programs Adolf Hitler studied in liaison with Englishman Aleister Crowley. Crowley was a keeper of “Hidden Knowledge” of mystery religions whose philosophy centered around controlling victims through torture. Doctors of the Third Reich, ordered by Hitler to advance concepts of these ancient brainwashing methods, fine-tuned their vile machinations by demonizing prisoners of concentration camps. Their studies consisted of sexual, physical and mental abuse. This mind-control fractured thinking patterns, thereby programming the victim into multiplicity. The methods were designed not to destroy memory, but to keep it repressed until perpetrators chose to call recollections forward, giving them life-long governance over their victim’s thinking.
As an innocent child subjugated to this system Hill incarcerated rather than eliminated childhood ordeals. The brutal experiences were choreographed far into the subconscious so as to gnaw away at her mental, physical and spiritual health.
Secret Six: Stress-Related Disorders Have Been Apparent Throughout
History, Yet Remain For The Most Part, Unrecognized.
Victims of torture and war have shown Dissociate symptoms, yet affects of trauma on the human brain was not recognized until recently.
By 1973 the release of a multiple personality biography, Sybil (Henry Regnery: New York) uncovered the connection between child abuse, trauma and formation of alter personalities, but it was after the Vietnam War in 1980 before PTSD was finally recognized as a diagnosis and DID didn’t enter the APA Psychiatric Manuel until fourteen years later in 1994.
Also by 1980 Michelle Remembers (Congdon & Lattes: New York) suggested that repeated severe mental strain created multiple personalities in children. Michelle Remembers, along with a comprehensive history of satanic practices, Cult and Ritual Abuse by James Noblitt, M.D. and Pamela Sue Perskins, LCSW (1980, 1995, 2000, American Psychiatric Press: Virginia) were credited with significantly elevating public awareness about the extremely esoteric activities of parents that engaged in ritualized ceremonies to traumatize their own children. These methods were eventually known as mind-control and named Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA).
After these 1980 book releases there was an explosion of clients categorizing themselves as SRA survivors suffering from multiplicity who were confessing eerily similar claims to mental health professionals. Within three years a group met in New York to organize treatment techniques for a large population of clients diagnosed with Dissociation. The next year, 1984, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health experts met in Chicago at the first gathering of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD). A year later another organization was founded: the International Society for Traumatic Studies (ISTSS). By 1988 ISTSS convened a European conference in Lincoln (United Kingdom) and in 1992, formed the first global conference in Amsterdam (The Netherlands).
Also in 1992 Ph.D. Corydon Hammond confirmed Hitler’s theory that multiple personalities could be deliberately formed by applying mind-bending techniques. He made the revelations at a Washington, D.C. Psychiatric Institute Conference, explaining results of his eight-year study on ISSTD clients who as children were subjected to Hitler’s brainwashing methods extracted from Nazi Germany. (The Greenbaum Speech, Washington D.C.: 25 June 1992).
Secret Seven: Other Mental Conditions Result From Ongoing Stress
Individuals who dissociate are also known to exhibit a variety of mental conditions including bouts of seemingly unfounded Depression, Flashbacks, Panic Attacks, Phobic Reactions, Addictive Behaviors, Hyperactivity and/or Eating and Learning Disorders.
Secret Eight: Why Trauma Treatment?
It was once thought that a severely dissociated mind such as Jenny endures was so inflicted that the victim might never truly heal, but experts stress that therapy could change neurobiology. Counseling with a trained professional is recommended.
There has been extensive research over the last four decades on the use of EEG, Biofeedback or Neurofeedback that allows one to monitor their own brain wavelengths. “We don’t know why Neurofeedback works,” admits Linda Quinton-Burr, Ph.D., J.D. of the Utah based Trauma Research Center. ” We just know it does.”
Neurofeedback or Biofeedback has been useful treatment, though is not considered a cure, for a variety of illnesses including Multiple Schlerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Mania or Bipolar Disorder, Migraines, Motor and Vocal Tics, Motor Seizures, abnormal memory functions, chemical sensitivities, menopausal symptoms Mental Retardation, Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, Epilepsy and the Dissociate Disorders including Dissociate Identity and Post Traumatic Stress.
Secret Nine: You Can Find Answers Within
Decide to be positive. Positive feedback intervention has also been found helpful in overcoming trauma, “Positive experiences that contradict a traumatized child’s negative expectations are critical to helping the brain readjust itself. For example, just saying to a child that you are sorry the event happened changes brain chemistry.” (Teicher, Van der Kolk, 2012).
Affects of trauma and abuse includes anger. There is always a fear behind the anger. It is important to find what you fear, forgive those who have wronged you, research ways to overcome your fears.
You may feel you are not accepted by others, are unworthy of love while the situation has lowered your self-esteem. Look within yourself and find your spiritual soul, your strengths and what you have already overcome. Believe in yourself move on to a more productive life.
Hammond, Corydon, Psychiatric Institute Conference. Washington, D.C.: 25 June 1992. Noblitt, James Randall and Pamela Sue Perskin. Cult and Ritual Abuse 2000. Virginia: American Psychiatric Press, 1995, 2000.
Schreiber, Flora Rheta. Sybil: The True and Extraordinary Story of a Woman Possessed
by Sixteen Separate Personalities. New York: Henry Regnery, 1973.
Smith, Michelle and Lawrence Pazder. Michelle Remembers: The True Story of a Year-
long Contest Between Innocence and Evil. New York: Congdon & Lattes, 1980.
Teicher, Martin. The Neurobiology of Child Abuse. Vol. 2, No.4, pages 50-67. Dana
Press: Boston, Mass, 2000.