Neuroscience research has established why it is that trauma results in a fragmented narrative along with a ‘living legacy’ of enduring effects. We now know that the survival responses that preserve life and integrity under threat do not diminish once safety is obtained. Meant to warn us of impending danger, these easily re-activated survival responses continue to re-evoke the events of long ago.
The evolution of new neurobiologically-informed treatments offers new, hopeful answers to the aftermath of trauma and neglect: the loss of hope or energy, chronic fear of danger, the longing for human connection, and self-destructive and addictive behavior.
Rather than ‘treating’ the events that resulted in this legacy, neuroscience teaches us how to treat their effects. When trauma symptoms are “decoded” in this way, they become comprehensible and treatable. They have a neurobiological logic that reassures survivors of trauma that they are not inadequate or going crazy and reassures the therapist that the effects of their traumatic experience can be resolved and even transformed.
Janina Fisher, Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Instructor at the Trauma Center, an outpatient clinic and research center founded by Bessel van der Kolk. Known for her expertise as an author, speaker, and consultant, she is also Assistant Educational Director of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute, Director of Psychological Services, Khiron Clinics UK, an EMDR International Association Continuing Education Provider, and a former Instructor, Harvard Medical School. She is co-author with Pat Ogden of “Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for Trauma and Attachment” and author of the book, “Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors: Overcoming Internal Self-Alienation.”
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