Trauma & Limbic System Impairment
Thrive Neural Retraining is based on the premise that the root cause of depression, anxiety, PTSD, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and many forms of environmental and "invisible" illness is often traumatic injury to the autonomic nervous system that results in limbic system impairment.
In other words, as a direct and often immediate result of traumatic injury, or a series of traumatic injuries, the wiring in the autonomic system can become impaired. This impairment, or damaged neural wiring, locks the limbic system into a non-stop "fight, flight or freeze" stress response.
Essentially, traumatic injury turns on a powerful stress response at a very deep level -- and then this stress response never turns off!
The initial injury or trauma may result from a wide variety of different sources: illness, physical injury, chemical exposure and/or mental/emotional stress (including neglect). However, the impact of these injuries on the central nervous system (CNS) is often one and the same: a stress response (alarm) is triggered within the CNS, at which point the body is unable to regulate this alarm reaction, and the stress response continues to run unabated.
Healthy Stress Response
In contrast, the body's natural and healthy response to stress is to activate the stress response only briefly. Then, as soon as the stressful conditions have passed, the compensatory relaxation response automatically "kicks in", and this allows the body to relax and recuperate from the damaging effects of the preceding stress.
Consider, for example, the primal scenario of a human being chased by a tiger:
- When the chase begins, the sympathetic stress response immediately turns on, along with a wide variety of biochemical and physiological changes. A variety of stress hormones are rapidly activated by the limbic system while, at the same time, various parasympathetic systems in the body (associated with "rest and digestion") begin shutting down in a synchronized metabolic effort to free up the body's energy for the immediate "fight, flight or freeze" response.
- After the chase, while safely resting out of reach of the tiger, relaxation resumes, at which point the stress response gradually begins winding down and, in a healthy system, this stress response eventually turns off completely. During this relaxation process, the stress hormones diminish, digestion resumes, and the body begins to recuperate and regenerate following the stress of the chase.
Chronic Stress Response
Unfortunately, in those instances where the stress, trauma or injury to the autonomic nervous system is severe, the body's natural relaxation response may be inhibited, in which case, the limbic system remains in a state of chronic, unrelenting stress.
- This stress has a profoundly damaging effect the body because the body can never completely relax, recuperate and heal.
- These effects of this chronic stress, in turn, are reflected in the wide range of debilitating symptoms associated with limbic system impairment.
Regeneration vs. Degeneration
Regeneration: During states of relaxation, digestion and sleep, the body is able to repair itself, and recover from the damaging effects of stress. In this sense, relaxation is directly linked to the innate healing potential, rehabilitation and regeneration of the body.
Degeneration: In contrast, acute and chronic stress both have a profoundly debilitating and damaging effect on the body -- and the more severe and prolonged the stress, the more severe the physical damage can be.
This why individuals who have experienced extreme stress, or who have been under chronic stress for an extended period of time, often feel like their bodies are beginning to break down and wear out. The truth is, this is exactly what is happening -- because the body has not had an opportunity to relax and heal.
Under normal conditions, the limbic system naturally functions as the "bodyguard" within the autonomic nervous system: when an external threat is perceived, the limbic system instinctively and immediately activates ("turns on") the stress response -- and then, when the threat is gone, the limbic system will calm down allowing the stress response to "turn off" thereby allowing relaxation to begin.
However, in the case of environmental illness and many other forms of limbic system impairment, the damaged neural wiring results in an unrelenting stress response that does not stop. This results in an extreme form hypervigilance within the limbic system as it begins to identify more and more potential threats in the surrounding environment.
This hypervigilance eventually results in two patterns of symptomatic escalation:
- Limbic Kindling: Smaller and smaller triggers begin to set off larger and larger symptomatic reactions.
- Limbic Generalization: More and more new substances are perceived by the limbic system to be threats -- and, as a result, a wide range of new sensitivities begins to develop.
This is why conditions like environmental illness can be so debilitating:
- The body is not only subjected to the damaging and debilitating effects of chronic, systemic stress.
- The body is also subjected to escalating stress as the hypervigilance of the impaired limbic system triggers more acute sensitivity to a wider range of environmental triggers.
Fortunately, the practical application of recent discoveries about the brain's innate neuroplasticity have demonstrated that this chronic stress response and the extreme hypervigilance of the limbic system can both be successfully turned off using neural retraining.
- Neural retraining now provides us with the opportunity to create new neural pathways in the brain that enable the body to reestablish its innate ability to respond to stress in a natural, healthy manner.
- As these newly created neural pathways are strengthened, the body's optimal response to stress is reestablished, and the limbic system impairment begins to diminish.
- When this happens, the traumatic effects of the limbic system injury can actually be eliminated, thereby allowing the body to heal.
In light of this, three of the most important goals of the Thrive Neural Retraining program are to support you in:
- escaping the viscous cycle of chronic metabolic stress by learning how to activate your body's natural relaxation response at a deep autonomic level;
- creating a powerful opportunity for the body to begin recuperating and healing; and
- gradually developing the ability to handle future stresses with greater resilience, ease and equanimity.
Many of the changes needed to alleviate limbic system impairment are fundamental changes in the energetic signaling within the brain and the central nervous system. In many ways, these changes are comparable to "flipping the switch" that redirects a moving train from one track to another.
- When we apply this analogy to the central nervous system, one track leads to an impaired metabolic state with:
- increasing sensitivity to more and more environmental triggers and
- a chronic, debilitating stress response that never abates.
- The other track leads to a healthy metabolic state, in which:
- the limbic system only alerts on true threats in the environment (and no longer triggers countless "false alarms"), and
- brief periods of stress are followed by a healthy, natural relaxation response.
Once the "switch" in the limbic system is "flipped" from the impaired mode back to the healthy mode, the physical effects and benefits of this change can be quite dramatic.
In fact, it this potential for rapid "switching" within the limbic system that explains the remarkable accounts of sudden and complete recovery (such as my own) following years or even decades of limbic system impairment.
For the majority of people, however, the neural retraining process is usually more gradual, especially in cases where there may be a longer history of stress or trauma preceding the onset of any debilitating health symptoms.
The process of retraining and recovery may also take more time if it is difficult to find a space in which you can begin your retraining while feeling safe and relaxed.
However, neither of these conditions prohibit the possibility of recovery!
- The good news is that stress and many forms of physical and emotional trauma are extremely responsive to neural retraining.
- In addition, as the vigilance of the limbic system diminishes, and the relaxation response grows stronger, our sense of physical, psychological and emotional "safety" can actually be transformed through the process of neural retraining.
- Even a relatively simple change in perspective, attitude, and outlook can make a dramatic difference in how we perceive and respond to the stresses in our lives.
In light of this, the potential for dramatic change and improvement is great, even if you have had a history of trauma or you are currently dealing with chronic stress. At the very least, it is certainly worth exploring the potential of neural retraining in order to have an opportunity to enjoy the new-found freedom this transformational change can provide.
Hope for Improvement
When a dedicated commitment is made to neural retraining, there is huge potential for reversing the effects of limbic system impairment. The brain and central nervous system can be remarkably responsive to customized forms of neural training that capitalize on the fundamental principles of neuroplasticity.
Thrive Neural Retraining is based on these principles, and the program is designed to support you in creating a neural retraining process that will be:
- customized for your unique neural retraining needs, and
- personalized based on your unique interests, preferences and goals.