Episode 16 - Why your brain NEEDS to understand trauma

Hello, my name is Johanna, and I welcome you to the Johanna Draconis - The Deconstruction Of C-PTSD podcast.
In this episode I will talk about the key difference to the previous methods and why it is SO important that your brain understands trauma.
I feel like after the last 2 episode I have to do this, as I am truly shook by the situation.
This is a key aspect of the removal of the trauma and ignoring it or showing so little focus on it, shows a extreme flaw in the therapy methods explained in the last episode.

The last episode really left a mark on me. I mean I knew the situation was bad (the official 20 daily suicides of veterans was a strong hint /s), but I didn’t realize the issues were this deep.
I thought to create this podcast as a nice addition, as in giving people the support to stabilize themselves and to complement existing therapy. But now I almost feel like I bit off more than I can chew.
I think it is crucial to give all the information to the patient, so there is little confusion and the patient can make an informed decision and actively change something.
Putting such little emphasis on that shows a true lack of deeper understanding the structure and way of PTSD. Just to be clear: I don’t think there is bad intent by the therapist or anyone - just a lack of knowledge.
So in this episode I will try to explain what I see as the key difference: Why the brain needs to understand the trauma and why you can’t just talk it away.

Why the brain needs to understand trauma - How the brain works
But why does the brain need to understand it? Let us go back how our brain processes memories, traumas, experiences, etc. They go through several filters in the brain.
If you want to test them out, I recommend trying to listen to someone talk, while reading  and trying to speak yourself. Reading, writing, language, speaking and listening share the same filter.
And similar to a sorting machine in a factory, each filter is there to send the piece of information to the right section, where it can be stored. Everything needs a place.
If it isn’t stored in a set place, it will roll around and make the factory a harder place to work in. Usually our brain is more than capable of storing the information in a proper way - it is its job after all.
You might have noticed, that sometimes you need a bit longer to - so to say - stomach a information. That is what you could consider a mini trauma and your brain has trouble sorting it in the categories.
Usually during this time you keep thinking about it, which allows you to chip something away from the trauma each time you do it. Until you brain is finally able to do it itself. But now there is the trauma and there is no way the brain can sort it - so it asked the big brain - aka you - for help by flashbacks, visions or hallucinations, etc.
Which you will most likely ignore until the PTSD breaks out.
At this point the whole factory is in disarray and you have to fix now all of it. But how do we do it? You need to understand the trauma - because this way you can split it off into smaller pieces.
Smaller pieces means you brain can throw it in the sorting machine and it can get all sorted out. If it is properly stored, it will no longer bother you. No trigger, nothing. Maybe an uncomfortable feeling remembering it.
Because if the memory is in a store unit - it is under control. But the trauma is too big and too complex for the brain to do that - unlike you.

Why the brain needs to understand trauma - The difference between knowing and understanding
You are - unlike the brain - capable of exchanging information, get new insights and do long term projects. That is what is needed to deal with it. But why such an emphasis on understanding?
Well, like in the real world, only if you truly understand something, be it cooking, sports, anything really - you can do it proper.
It doesn’t matter if I have the answer, as me telling you wouldn’t help you. Because as soon a tiny bit changes, you would be at your wits end again and have to ask again. Better for you to understand it truly.
It might even be that you KNOW the solution to your trauma, but that doesn’t mean you understand it. What do I mean by that? Well, do you remember school?
Did you ever had the situation, where you thought you know the topic, but in the tests, you couldn’t answer the questions?
The difference between knowing and understanding is - that you are capable of applying the knowledge to vastly different situations and that you are able to explain it. Especially in simple words.

Why the brain needs to understand trauma - Learn to explain
Because if you can explain it in simple words - means - you are capable of dissecting it and joggle around with its parts as you please. And THATS what you need to do: Able to take it apart - literally.
Because if you truly understand something, you understand what parts there are, what they are there for and how it is set together. Like a cooking recipe, car, Lego construction, etc. But how can you train it?
Here is what I do: I imagine I am being in a talk show - pick show and host you like, but it has to be an audience there. Size doesn’t matter. We ignore the consequences which would occur if everyone knew.
So I am in a situation, where I am getting asked about my trauma, while I have to explain it in terms, that the audience understands it. You can also write it down if that is easier.
But what it does is: You are required to explain everything step by step and then you should see the gaps and jumps in your logic.
Because you might have noticed, when you explain things, that it isn’t as easy and you often realize, that you don’t have such a clear picture as you thought you had. Want an example?
Quick! Tell me how to do jumping jacks and push ups, but without showing me of course. You should know how to do them, so explaining should be easy, no?
So you could say, that you basically have to explain the trauma to your brain. So it can learn and understand it.

Why the brain needs to understand trauma - Summary
The key is really, that YOU understand the trauma and yes - you can do it. Maybe you need a little support. I am sure your therapist is willing to help you. I could tell you the answer, but that wouldn’t help you.
That is why I use the Socratic method - aka keep asking question - to help other people. Why do you feel like this? Why do you think that? Why do you feel like you have to do this?
I have faith in you and your ability to do that - it is okay to stumble, it happens to the best of us - but just ~keep~ ~on~ ~going~. It is a long path, but definitely worth it.

Why you can’t just talk it away
But now the question remains: Why can’t you just talk it away? You can reduce the size of the trauma by talking about it, but it just grows back in time. Sooner or later.
That is a big problem with PTSD: It keeps coming back. There is a good reason why I put so much emphasis on removing it and not just treating it.
There are a lot of ways to make the trauma small. So that the factory can go back to work, so that is what most people do. Most of the time, PTSD treatment is just to reduce it’s symptoms.
So that a normal life is possible again… rinse and repeat. Until you are too old and too weak. I have seen this so often and breaks my heart. I feel them. I thought that that would be my fate.
The problem with talking is: That is does help, but it changes nothing, unless you gain an understanding by it. But that is usually not possible by only talking about it.
ESPECIALLY if you are just the passive receiver. Which happens if you wait for instructions or help from the therapist - because this way you become dependent on your therapist. The cycle repeats itself.
It is very hard for people who where dominated for a long time to stand up for themselves and form their own opinion about something.
It is important to support them in finding their own voice, which usually happens by making experiences and training to form an opinion again - best starting at something as trivial as the breakfast egg.
So just talking won’t help the issue - but actively gaining understanding will - in which ever form fits you best. Sometimes that is someone talking to you and explaining you step by step, while assisting you.

Private Words
A few private words at the end of the podcast. I finally manage to redo the website, at least for now, as a homepage is a never ending process. I try to separate the work into smaller parts.
There are now finally pictures of me uploaded, in case you want a face to my voice - as I know how hard it is to have a voice and no face attached to it. As usual I would appreciate feedback if you want that or not.
Otherwise I was sadly rather sick - my body is telling me to not overdo myself - but I do have the tendency of overdoing it. Not a wise thing - I definitely can’t recommend it. Not that that ever stopped me.
You might hear it in my voice still. The last topic was really hard on me and I slowly stomached it.

That was it for todays episode - I hope I could explain to you WHY it is so important and why I emphasis it so much.
If you have any questions or feedback and the like, please let me know at contactme@johannadraconis.com.
More information and transcript you can find as usually under johannadraconis.com/Podcast and links are in the description.
I hope to see you next time. Watch yourselves and have a wonderful time.

The Deconstruction Of C-PTSD ~ Episode 16 - Why your brain NEEDS to understand trauma
Ep16 Why your brain NEEDS to understand
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