Why the Presence of Christ Can Change the Impact of Trauma on the Brain

by Apr 10, 2018

If I had a dollar for every “if only” I have ever said, I would be a very rich woman!
Sadly, it took many years to realize the “if onlys” robbed me of the present moment and left me poorer. Because of repeated woundings, I learned to live out of a dearth mentality, seeing myself as powerless.
Like me, you have someone in your life who has been rude, unkind, cruel, or even violent. You’ve experienced moments of feeling humiliated, shamed, frightened, frustrated, and even angry.
Feeling unseen, unappreciated, or even like a victim locks one into victim thinking: “If only I’d had a break, if only I’d been loved, then everything would be better.”

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

Negative memories become seared in our amygdala by the fear, shock, and trauma we experienced and unless recognized and faced will constantly be triggered, shaping who we are today.

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

In childhood, trying to survive, fear taught us to run and hide.

  • 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

Unless we learn to stand in the truth of our true identity in Christ, and look for something to grab hold of and give thanks for, the enemy has power to rob today of its peace, its strength, its opportunities by triggering negative thoughts so we run into our imagination. As slaves, we become passive in the face reality. Fantasy is wonderful within boundaries. But to live there, is to become trapped into the identity of failure or victim.

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

Brother Lawrence encouraged us to practice the presence of Christ. After reading his book, I decided to practice thinking Jesus was with me. Basically, I pretended He sat across from me and I spoke as if He really was there. Over time, fresh neuronal pathways grew, creating healthy dendrites and strong leafy trees.

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.


So beautiful! Taking time to enter His presence, we experience the reality and the wonder He is really with us.

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

Jesus is a Person. Practice telling yourself He is with you. It may feel silly at first, but He really is with you. Speak His words of life over yourself. Jesus loves you. That is truth.

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.

I have set the LORD always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Psalms 16:8

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