“I will never _______________ (fill in the blank). Be late again, be like my father or mother, talk to so and so again….” People resolve all sorts of things, but when your resolution takes over your life, I call it “life-driving.” Unfortunately, most of those resolutions result in just the results you meant for them to avoid. Since we get what we imagine or visualize, and we can’t visualize the negative–the not-doing–what is left is repeating the mantra of what we hope to avoid, which results in internally seeing that result over and over again, and eventually achieving it. It seems that most people who don’t want to be like a parent become like that parent. In my case, I once resolved to never be late again, but then, realizing I didn’t want the negative, restated that to “I will be early for every appointment”, and I have been ever since. But trauma-driven resolutions are different.
For the purpose of my theory, I define trauma as an event or experience that is so powerful, that it instantly creates a neural “superpathway” in the brain that becomes dominant, causing the experience to repeat endlessly. Trauma survivors admit to revisiting the trauma, like a moth to a flame. Even when they are not conscious of what they are reliving, their reactions to current situations often betray their thoughts. Notice that I said the “experience is powerful”, without defining it as painful or unpleasant. That’s deliberate, because the same mechanism creates addictions. The experience that becomes addictive was not necessarily unpleasant at the time; often it’s shockingly pleasant, too much so. It becomes unpleasant, and even traumatic, when it takes over your life. Even a non physical addiction, like pornography, starts as a jolt to the nervous system, and here is where it’s important to understand the concept of the superpathway, a term I made up to describe how even one big jolt can lead to a lifetime of slavery.
Next time it rains, concentrate on a window, on the rivulets of water. Notice how certain rivulets seem to be attracting other rivulets, until the attracting rivulets become bigger, apparently sucking water into themselves. Now think of rivulets as neural pathways. A trauma, whether pleasant or not, instantly electrifies and enhances a particular pathway, much like a mutant movie monster is created by an electrical storm. That superpathway now attracts neural impulses, or thoughts, to it, strengthening itself by repetition. Viola, either addiction or post traumatic stress disorder is being created and reinforced. Can I prove it, did I read about it? No and no, but I know it on the basis of using this theory to short-circuit addictions and traumatic responses during my career.
In response to trauma, many people form life-driving resolutions to avoid the actions or circumstances that might have led to the trauma. Such resolutions may not be a problem per se, but inevitably human beings must justify their resolutions with a gloss of explanation or rationale. The trouble is, such rationales often become the driver of self defeating behavior. Trauma was usually specific to the people involved, or the particular set of circumstances, time and place, but the resolution and it’s supporting rationales tend over time to generalize, limiting much more of life than is needed to avoid the original trauma.
So the train of events is: trauma or shock creates a dominant neural pathway, which causes reliving of the event, and resolutions to avoid the unpleasantness. Instead, it keeps recurring, which further strengthens the pathway. The sufferer creates explanations for their feelings and behavior, which tend to be self-reinforcing. The mind is simply doing what it was designed to do, and what makes it worse is the “disease model”. If the sufferer accepts the diagnosis of “depression”, or “anxiety”, or “PTSD”, the disease model prescribes drugs which attack the symptoms, without affecting the cause.
My next post will deal with better ways to alter or interrupt the sequence of events.