This came in an email, and I thought it was important enough to share with people who were interested in trauma: Three ways trauma changes the brain.
The first is that the threat perception system becomes more sensitive. Things are perceived as threats that really aren’t. The amygdala, which is a kind of danger sensing device, has a hair trigger. I’ve seen this in myself. I learned to call it “false urgency” so I could catch myself and not rush out to take care of something that didn’t need it right away.
False urgency can also be triggered by the fact that the brain’s “filtering system,” which distinguishes between what’s immediately relevant and what can be put off, is not functioning properly. This is the second way trauma changes the brain.
The third way is that your ability to sense what is going on inside yourself is blunted. It has been a long hard struggle for me to learn to accept my limitations.
The “threat perception system” is in the oldest part of the brain, the reptilian part of the brain. That makes it much less amenable to cognitive correction. The “filtering system” and the ability to sense what’s going on inside are in a more evolved part of the brain, and so more amenable to conscious interference.