How does divorce impact your brain’s function?

We all know what’s meant by trauma, don’t we? A divorce, miscarriage, a bereavement, serious road accident or being caught up in a natural disaster can destroy a person’s sense of who they are and what it means to be in the world. Any physical damage may or may not heal over time, but psychologically, they’re never quite the same.
Trauma in the Brain

Well, that’s a limited view of trauma and its effects.

First of all, not everyone who has an extreme experience suffers severely and develops Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many are able to heal, and some go on to become fantastic healers or inspirational figures themselves, while others struggle for a while and then get on with the lives they’d always intended to lead.

Secondly, for many of us it’s a way of distancing ourselves from the idea that we might ourselves be traumatised. Nothing life-threatening has ever happened to us, so we don’t even consider PTSD as an issue in our lives. Wouldn’t it be melodramatic to suggest our reaction to marital betrayal and the ensuing divorce in any way resembles the experiences of a hurricane survivor?

Well, the events themselves may not be comparable, but whether a shocking or stressful life experience has a lasting, damaging psychological impact seems to depend more on how it’s processed.

A betrayal of our assumption that the room will never turn upside down can shake all our other assumptions, challenging our grasp of who we are and what life is about AND so can discovering a trusted partner is no longer invested in the marriage. The imminent threat of psychic annihilation is real enough to trigger the same processes in the brain that kick in when our life is in danger. The ‘fight-or-flight’ instinct takes over our brain as our Amygdala generates massive amounts of Cortisol and Adrenalin to prepare for this action it needs to take. The increase in Cortisol in the body causes neurons in the Hippocampus to shrivel up. As the Hippocampus is responsible for turning emotional sensory cues into visual retrievable memories that we can talk about – it’s ability to perform this function under stress is massively reduced. SO we get stuck in the emotional memories as we fail to contextualise what happened and the ability to think rationally is put on hold while we escape and become a slave to our Amygdala.

The block to the conscious memory can stay in place for some time to protect us from continued danger – for example in a combat situation. When we find a more secure space, either literally or in terms emotional and psychological support, we can adjust our world view, with the co-operation of the associated conscious memories, heal and move on. In other words, when the Cortisol decreases, our Hippocampus can come back online and help us to contextualise what happened. Until then, emotional memories will resurface unconsciously through dreams and flashbacks, until the conscious mind with the help of the Hippocampus is ready come to terms with what happened, and help make the adjustment to a new reality.

But our ability to process a shock like a divorce can be affected by behaviour patterns set by earlier traumas, or our life experience so far may have left us ill-equipped to deal with unexpected loss. PTSD is what happens when the conscious memory of the event is, or seems, too frightening to contemplate – our Amygdala (or brain’s alarm system) is so hyperactive that it doesn’t allow the Hippocampus to come back online. We can get caught in this fight-or-flight state, constantly re-experiencing out-of-context debilitating emotions disconnected from any conscious memories.

This is why we get stuck in divorce trauma. Reassessing your life in the light of an eye-opening event is no bad thing, but it sometimes feels too painful to take on board and understand what’s happened. On some level you probably desperately want to put the experience behind you and get on with your life, but you don’t seem to be able to think straight. This is why so many people avoid the processing of divorce trauma memories by engaging in Short Term Emotion Avoidance Tactics like shopping, working too much, hiding behind children or going out every night.

The Naked Divorce can help you get unstuck. The three-stage 21-day divorce support programme works by first stabilising you in an emotional ‘cocoon’, creating the safety you need to release those ‘feeling’ memories and begin to allow the conscious recollections in. Only then can you can work to contextualise your feelings, so that they’re associated in your memory with events you can consider and interpret, and you’re not constantly at their mercy. After pupating for 21 days, you’ll emerge, stronger, wiser and ready to move forward into your new life.

Call us, we are here to help and we know a hellava lot about what happens to the brain during trauma so we really know how to help you move on.

Till next time

Lots of hugs

 

About Adele Theron

I am a change management chick. I help organisations cope with big changes (mergers, acquisitions, large implementations) and I coach and support people through divorce and break ups. It's all about using the energy of the change to transform lives! I have been working since 2000 with some of the world’s largest corporations, as a change management specialist, helping people adapt to new situations and experiences created by mergers, acquisitions and large software implementations. The techniques I use and created to help companies and individuals adapt to change were used very successfully to aid thousands of individuals within 18 separate organizations. I went through a divorce in March 2009 and was way too busy to have an emotional breakdown so used my change management techniques to develop a rapid and intense process to heal and experienced a complete transformation. The process I used has since evolved into a clear cut 21 day strategy for getting over a divorce, capable of dealing with the most dramatic of situations. I believe that we are living in an unprecedented time of change. The real danger for society is that people resist, ignore or run away from massive changes in their lives and consequently do themselves long-term damage. Divorce can be a very destructive force and high powered, professional career women, like myself, don’t have the luxury of time to fall apart. We want an alternative to months in therapy - something which will hold us together whilst helping us heal around our busy schedules that will also enable us to build healthy, future relationships which are drama-free. Consequently, I have developed a clear pathway, revolutionising the way people view and process change, harnessing its energy to enable deep personal transformation - beyond mere transition. I focus on providing three benefits to my clients: • I help people create a solid support structure which grounds them, freeing them to sustain consistent high performance, whilst dealing with the change • The clear, effective and simple process enables people to harness the energy generated by the change to transform their lives • Results are experienced quickly and the personal transformation is deep and profound but my approach is not for the faint-hearted as I work within an intense 21 day period How I currently deliver this is... > Through corporate change management consulting and programs which I run > Through one-on-one coaching with high powered career women. Also, so that more women all over the world can access the breakthrough results I have achieved, I have written a book entitled ‘The Naked Divorce – 21 days to emotional freedom’ which will be published by January/ February 2011. I am also developing a series of audio and video divorce crisis programs which help women get over their divorce within 21 days. These programs can be accessed online and used around their busy schedules to maintain their high performance. To sum this all up. I am all about helping people adapt to change quickly, whilst experiencing great transformation. The best way to connect with me is by email or phone! When I am not focused on change, I love motorcycling, India, Cuba, South Africa, english bull terriers, the beach, being a Pescatarian, triathlons, travelling, romance, dancing salsa, painting, singing at the top of my lungs and riding my motorcycle wherever I damn well please. Life is for living, so sieze the day!

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