During ordinary, day-to-day events, both sides of our brain process and store what we experience. However, when you have a life-threatening experience or you witness another person in such circumstances, your verbal brain can be overwhelmed and your executive function (the ability to think your way out of the trauma) fails. You can no longer organize your experience in a logical way. The parts of the brain that deal with survival take over. If you cannot fight or flee the situation you will go into the freeze. The body and brain are hardwired to help us survive. Tis is called the Instinctual Trauma Response (ITR).
The ITR components occur in order for almost any overwhelming or life-threatening experience. Some experiences may have several components over again as the event goes on over a period of time. Many people get “stuck” in one of the aspects for an extended period of time. This is known as a ‘fixed state.”
Startle, Thwarted Fight/Flight, Freeze, Altered State of Consciousness, Automatic Obedience, and Self-Repair
Going into the ITR affects your memory for the event. You may feel that the fragmented memory is “stuck” in the non-verbal parts of the brain, where there are no words and no sense of time. We call these fragments “mental shrapnel.” These bits and pieces of the trauma then become triggers that intrude into life at unexpected times. The result can be bewildering and can change how an individual views him/herself, others, and the world at large.
A person can sometimes enter a “fixed state” when re-experiencing an aspect of the Instinctual Trauma Response as an intrusive symptom (even though the trauma happened long ago). For example, one could be in the fixed state of the freeze that is mistaken for depression. In such a case, antidepressants and other conventional treatments have little effect.
“” Trauma is the biggest mental health problem of the 21st century and it is the most treatable.” Dr. Louis Tinnin, Psychiatrist and Co-Founder of ITR
Treat trauma first and see what is left!