Why the Presence of Christ Can Change the Impact of Trauma on the Brain
Whether publicly humiliated or privately experiencing unkindness, we tend to relive that moment. It as if a video is continually replayed by our brain. Feeling powerless, living out of “if only” mentality, we review it in our imagination, trying to rewrite what happened so we feel safe and like we are the one in control.
Grasping for control, those memories draw us into an illusion of feeling safe. But, we are unable to apply what we imagine to real life situations; thus the cycle is perpetuated as we are further victimized.
The Impact of Trauma on the Brain
With churning thoughts and instant replay, we encounter the should haves. Regret triggers “I should have…”. Our instant replay may be 10 minutes later or 10 years later as we engage in scenarios in our mind and our imagination dramatizes what our brain tells us we should have done.
The thought may begin with “if only I had …”. The replay button goes over and over the what if’s as we desperately try to find peace by fantasizing reliving an event that is history. Sadly, it leads to emptiness as we try to reclaim our past by living in a fantasy.
Survival Patterns of Thought
- Our brain learned the concept of an instant fix
- Neuronal pathways were created as chemicals were released
- The brain felt good because of the flood of hormones and chemicals produced by the imagination
- Momentarily, we felt safe and comforted
- Or silenced by abuse, we found our voice in our imagination
But those thoughts are toxic and created stunted dendrites that look like barren thorny trees.
Now our brain encourages us to live in the past and travel up and down those negative neuronal pathways to derive feel good chemicals. Thinking we have no choice, we relive the would haves, the should haves, the could haves, and the if only on a daily basis. Whenever we hurt, our brain is triggered and we lose the present moment as we run to hide in the past.
Ultimately, we form habit patterns of thought. We don’t have to actually experience abuse; It only takes a negative wind (thought) to blow through the thorny trees of our brain to trigger us into immobility.
Finding True Identity
I used to live in my imagination. It felt empowering as I relived horrible experiences and worked out a different ending. But safety was an illusion and left me powerless in the face of real abuse for hiding in my imagination was an act of futility.
I want to say, there is a way of escape! You can retrain your brain to live in the present, where the past loses its power to rule you and comes into alignment with the will of the Heavenly Father.
Practicing the Presence
As healthy trees grew in my brain, Jesus was no longer a distant figure. My brain recognized He was real and my faith grew. Soon, I believed He listened to me, cared about me, and valuing me, heard my prayers and saw my tears. As healthy neuronal pathways were strengthened, I gained courage to live in the present.
It is amazing when we choose to be intentional in our relationship with Jesus. Rather than believing in an imaginary figure who seems too good to be true, as we practice the presence of Christ and choose to enter His presence and acknowledge His value, we will experience a whole new level of relationship with Jesus. We walk with Him and develop intimacy with Him where we are seen, known, and loved.
Rather than pray or demand He somehow “show up”, we make the will choice to enter His presence and live in the moment with Him.
We learn He is good. There is no need to capitulate, manipulate Him, or try to appease Him to do what we want. We are content with Him and find joy, purpose, and peace in His presence. Imaginary friends may make us feel good, but He empowers us to be good.
He is With You
Talk to Him like He cares and is a real person. Thank Him you aren’t alone. Thank Him for understanding exactly how you feel!
To live in the past is to walk in confusion and powerlessness. You will believe lies that open the door to the manipulations of the evil one, who accuses you of being a failure, and steals your true safety in Christ as he moves you into a place of failure and slavery.
Be intentional. Moment by moment, see yourself “in Christ”. Choose to affirm His Lordship over your life. Speak life over yourself. If you are God’s child, then you are in Christ. You are seated with Him in heavenly places. He has given you authority to conquer the world, the flesh, and the devil in His name.
You are not a failure or a victim! You are the beloved of the Lord Jesus. Walk in the dignity He has given you.
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It is great how the science of the brain is indicating what we already have known! In Jesus we have healing and restoration. I like how you describe how to grow our relationship Him with “as we practice the presence of Christ and choose to enter His presence and acknowledge His value, we will experience a whole new level of relationship with Jesus.” Thank you Barbara!
Hi Joy. Yes, it is fascinating to follow scientific discoveries and research and find precepts already delineated in Scripture. Thank you for your affirmation. I have been encouraged over the years as I learned to “practice the presence of Christ” and like David, to set Jesus before me in my daily life. Living in His presence has created sweet intimacy with Him that fills me with hope and courage to face the hard places of life. Truly, being with Jesus is sweeter than wine, and in His presence is fullness of joy. Have a blessed day!
Thank you for this post that brings so much together as a much-needed and timely reminder. It’s amazing how wonderful God created us that we don’t have to be a victim of our own brain, our experiences, or even our DNA! It really is a moment-by-moment choice to live before Him, isn’t it?
Yes, Joy. We have such hope in Jesus that we can find no where else. It is exciting to move out of that victim mindset into life as an overcomer – and no matter the trauma to find Jesus Christ is enough for every situation. He is truly our hope. May you be growing in the wonder of living in His presence. Blessings!