With 65-75,000 thoughts per day running through our minds, it’s impossible to notice every single one, but if you are living with the long term effects of trauma, you have probably experienced intrusive thoughts, overthinking, and rumination.
These thought habits come from activated survival instincts and if left unchecked, can lead to debilitating issues such as depression.
Toxic thinking cycles occur differently for everyone.
Our brains gather, assimilate and interpret information, and cognition attaches meaning.
Toxic thought habits make random thoughts alarming by attaching meaning without evidence.
For example, I had “That would be a safe place if I ever became homeless again…” rudely dropping into my mind decades after recovering stability.
Why would this happen?
Because the trauma of homelessness caused an imprint in my neurology that was activated when I drove passed abandoned buildings and bridges, and I mentally prepared for this event, should it reoccur.
I was preparing to survive it when it wasn’t even happening.
This is a great example of how “trauma from the past injects into the present” when the survival switch is stuck in the “on” position.
There are so many of these responses that occur outside of your awareness and cause suffering.
Learning more efficient (less stress-producing) thought habits is an integral part of trauma recovery.
Without learning better habits, it is unlikely that the individual will experience a shift into empowerment.
It’s important to understand that not all thoughts deserve your attention. Some thoughts need to be noticed and ignored.
This is not easy for anyone, but especially difficult for anyone who has endured any type of trauma, because the survival mechanisms of the mind are ￼in hyperdrive.
What do you we do?
Mindfulness is the habit of becoming aware of our own thoughts, emotions, and responses, and is vital for anyone recovering witwith from trauma.
When we master noticing the thought, we can practice replacing it with something that counteracts the momentum of perceived threat.
In my example, I used “I am safe.” I repeated it silently while taking a few deep breaths. I practiced this for a while and I can’t tell you when that thought ceased. But, it did.
It’s important to not assign meaning to every thought or judge yourself for having these thoughts, or the toxic thought habits.
This is more momentum in the opposite direction.
I know this sounds easier-said-than-done. I know because I had to learn how to do this myself.
Just practice notice for now.
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I couldn’t agree more
Great blog post! I appreciate how you explained the effects of trauma on our thought patterns and how mindfulness can help us counteract them. I was wondering if you have any tips on how to incorporate mindfulness into daily life, especially for individuals who are still struggling with the hyperactive survival mechanisms of their minds?
Hello, Jess. In my experience, the quickest way to increase mindfulness is to start with meditation since it increases individuals’ awareness and acceptance of the present moment. There is a proactive and cumulative benefit. When practiced regularly, mediation has been shown using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to affect the brain and neuronal connections in seemingly phenomenal ways. Regular practice of meditation techniques that slow down thought activity facilitates self-reflection and aids in emotional regulation. When this foundation is achieved, mindfulness of thoughts and emotions in the present moment becomes easier to notice and easier to manage. Thank you for your comment 🙂
This is a great article highlighting the importance of mindfulness and thought habits in trauma recovery. It provides valuable insights and helpful tips for those looking to shift from a state of suffering to empowerment.
Thank you, Val.