chapter  1
16 Pages

—Complex Trauma

Humans are wired to anticipate and react to all of the various elements in our environment that pose a threat. This is a survival instinct and is stored in the part of the brain that we share with all animals. Our brain is triune-that is, it is divided into three sections, the brainstem, the limbic system, and the cortex. The part of the brain that we share with our reptilian cousins is the brainstem and it manages our impulses and controls our states of arousal. “Working in concert with the evaluative processes of both the limbic and the higher cortical regions, the brainstem is the arbiter of whether we respond to threats either by mobilizing our energy for combat or for fl ight, or by freezing in helplessness, collapsing in the face of an overwhelming situation” (Siegel, 2010a, pp. 16-17). When we experience threat or danger, our amygdala is activated, we are wired to fi ght the danger, fl ee from it, or freeze in a protective nature. This physiology is reactive and protective. When we react to threat from the brainstem, it is an automatic reaction that has survival functions.