A dear friend badly burned her leg a few years ago. The skin partially regenerated but it is still sensitive and papery thin. It will never completely recover.
Many people had the experience of not feeling physically safe and protected growing up. The result of this is called Developmental Trauma because fear and abuse affect the developing brain of a child. The negativity bias of the primitive brain has a purpose – we notice danger to increase our chances of survival. Even if we later live in a home free of physical abuse, our nervous system never forgets that it is possible. We are not doomed because of our earlier experiences. Neuroplasticity means the brain can rewire itself with positive connections. Yet the effect is felt through our whole life. We have scar tissue.
I lived in a relationship with someone who was at times controlling and verbally abusive. This was something new in my experience with a romantic partner. It took me a long time to recognize it and even longer to leave. I would start to relax then something would trigger an episode. I’d feel blindsided. It became a mine field and I stopped sharing deeply because I never knew what would set her off. Protecting ourselves from our partner kills intimacy. Once authenticity was no longer possible, we were effectively done. I saw a therapist as I worked with the issues and she said what keeps you in line isn’t that it happens every day but that you know it could happen again. We might understand cognitively what is going on with the other person but it doesn’t matter to our nervous system. We remember and we instinctively protect ourselves from hurt.
Some scar tissue is physical. Some is emotional. It directly impacts our nervous system. It drives us to lash out at someone when we’re emotionally flooded. To numb out with food, shopping or tv. To drink, do drugs or other activities and substances that take the edge off and comfort us.
Our brain and nervous system love routine because we don’t have to work so hard to recognize danger. Our bodymind is habitual. Years or decades of protecting ourselves a certain way leave grooves that are easy to slip back into when life throws us off balance. The organs of our body have taken a hit from stress and addiction. Excess weight may be persistent or trouble sleeping may continue.
It takes time and effort to heal scar tissue. We develop the capacity to be present with our direct experience. We understand “how it works’ and become willing to be kind and compassionate with ourselves. We breathe and relax and this heals our nervous system. We see how previous experiences led to incorrect core deficiency beliefs. We slowly reach out and expand our ability to connect with other people. We build strength and resilience. We may not be completely free right away but we can come close! Perhaps for the first time, we enjoy our life. This is SO worth it!