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Blog The Rapid Trauma Reset

The Rapid Trauma Reset


The Rapid Trauma Reset

The Rapid Trauma Reset is a unique therapeutic approach to clearing trauma that I have developed by studying the Neuroscience of how the brain codes and uses memories. This has involved working with hundreds of clients over the last 10 years, as well as studying brain damage and dementia to look at the structure of the brain. 

How the brain codes memories

Our brains are primitive. They are working on a set of rules that come from the caveman days. The main rule is don't get hurt! We have not evolved but we have adapted. The rule is still "Don't get hurt", but as well as avoiding physical hurt, we also avoid emotional hurt. In fact, your brain can't tell the difference between something that hurts you physically, and something that hurts you emotionally. 

Have you ever experienced anxiety? I am sure you have. What did you do? Did you find yourself freezing? Unable to say very much. Or did you turn round and walk away to avoid something? Maybe your normal response is to get angry and go on the attack. Whichever of these it is, you are responding in a primitive way. Your heart rate increases. Adrenaline floods your body. You are ready to fight, or run away, or stay very still - and ignore exhaustion and pain. You are ready to escape that tiger. The flight, fight, freeze response is a primitive response to help you escape a tiger.But...when was the last time you saw a tiger running down the high street? Anxiety is your brain responding to emotional threat in the same way as it would respond to physical threat. 

This is a coding error. Emotional hurt should not be treated in the same way as physical hurt. 

Your brain is a pattern matching machine. This means it has to have a pattern to follow. 

We learn as we grow up. But how good or bad your childhood has very little to do with it. We learn in a primitive way, through experience and observation. A baby animal learns this way. It learns everything it needs while it is young, so that as an adult it has the best chance of survival. All through our childhood we are recording a database of these 'patterns' that the brain will use for the rest of your life to decide if something is safe or not safe. This is based on interpreting each moment you experience growing up, and deciding if it hurts and needs recording for use later. 

The Neuroscience of brain development

The first part of your brain to develop is the Amygdala. This is the emotional centre of the brain and is developed by the time you are born.

We then work on white matter - which is effectively the circuit diagram of the brain. We can learn through repetition and experience. We experience an emotional response to stuff that happens, but lack the necessary mechanisms to interpret what's happening. Thinking is very black and white. We believe what we are told, without interpretation. As a result, most people remember almost nothing since before they were 5 years old. 

At around 6+ years old the grey matter parts of the brain start developing. You can begin to learn and lock in meaning. With this developmental change, the Hippocampus begins to develop. We gain a sense of self for the first time, able to compare ourselves to others. Our identity is formed based on the lessons that have been imposed on use through the early years ("you are shy / clumsy / stubborn..." etc) and the comparisons we make with the people around us. 

During the adolescent years our brains are a bit 'full' and during sleep we clear out anything that is not necessary to remember. 

The brain is not actually fully developed until we are in our mid 20s. This means that pre-frontal cortex is not fully developed. This is the part of the brain that is logical, and can understand things even when you haven't had any experience of them. Here is the real catch: I have observed through studying clients, that the database with all the patterns in it (the one that will be used to switch your brain off for the rest of your life), is completed by the time you are 16! This means all the rules that you learn, are learnt before your brain is developed enough to understand what is really going on!

The role of the Hippocampus

The Hippocampus is where the database of all the patterns is stored. The Hippocampus is the control room for memories.

As you go through life, moment to moment, you are scanning and evaluating everything that happens. 

Your senses send constant signals to the Hippocampus to ask what to do: "Hey Boss, is this safe?".

Your Hippocampus then looks through your memories to see if there is a match to anything in your past that is similar to what's going on in the present. If there is not match, it replies with a thumbs up, allowing everything to carry on as normal.

If it finds a match to something that hurt you, it instigates evasive manoeuvres. The Cognitive part of your brain is disengaged. This will just get in the way. If you are being attacked by a tiger and you take a moment to stop and think, "Is this a good spear? I wonder if I can run away well in these shoes...", the tiger would be eating you. So the Hippocampus disengages that part of your brain so it doesn't get in the way. It adjusts your physiology and instructs your Amygdala to evoke an appropriate emotional response. This is any behaviour that will avoid the 'hurt'. It may be fight, flight or freeze. It may also be eat, drink, shop, exercise. 

When the moment has passed, everything returns to normal, and your thinking brain is reengaged, often leaving you beating yourself up for all the stuff that happened while your brain was switched off. This is normal!

How trauma is different

What I've described is how we all work. We are all stuck with a bunch of memories from childhood, that are used to keep us safe as adults. This whole structure is based on learning patterns during childhood that we can follow as adults. 

This means that the very worst thing that can happen is not something horrific. For something horrific you can form a clear pattern. There is no risk unless you are in the same or similar situation. Your Hippocampus knows what to do with this. 

The very worst thing that can happen is that something happens that you can't learn from. 

If something happens that you can't make sense of, either because the meaning is too overwhelming to make sense of (it involves guilt or shame), or the person involved shouldn't be doing those things, or even something where you get stuck in a time travel loop where you think you should have done something different, then the problem is you can't learn from it. You can't make sense of it. 

This will mean there is no pattern for the Hippocampus to follow. BUT...it is critical for survival for your brain to respond when under threat. How can it do that if it has no pattern?

In the case of a traumatic event (during childhood and as an adult) then when your brain fails to make sense of it, it glitches. This event becomes like a black box, inside of which anything could be happening. Because it can't form a pattern from it, it has to assume that everything else, every other pattern it has, could match what's inside this black box. 

As a result it can no long regulate your emotions and physiology based on real time input from your senses. As its job is avoid hurt no matter what, it reacts as if everything could hurt you. You end up in a hypervigilant state where everything is a potential threat. Your emotions are either erratic or numb, because the part of your brain that is supposed to regulate them is glitching. 

How the Rapid Trauma Reset works 

The Rapid Trauma Reset works on the coding of the brain. As described, most of the patterns are miscalculations based on limited brain development (not to mention that it's based on tigers!) . Everything you remember is subjective. There are no true or false memories. If you compare memories of something that happened with someone else that was there, they either don't remember it at all, or they remember it differently to you. 

When your Hippocampus codes memories, it does not have enough space to remember everything that happened. Also, all that detail would get in the way when you need to access it quickly. Instead, memories are only coded as a meaning. This meaning can be pattern matched to the moment you are in. This meaning will be used to create a brain-switch-off response. 

If we change any detail of a memory, we disrupt the meaning. For example, if you change even the colour of a wall in a memory, then your brain will go "Well if that wasn't true, then all these other things can't be true either". It's like removing the link from a chain. The chain will no longer function. 

When working with non-traumatic memories, I can work with a client to access memories, and change the way they remember them to remove the sense that the event was hurtful. When it has no hurt in it, there is no need to keep a pattern for this event, and the memory is then removed from the database.

A traumatic memory is too emotionally intense for a client to be able to reframe it and make it ridiculous. This is when I use the Rapid Trauma Reset. 

This approach 'smudges' the memory, changing a number of details and effectively remove the black box. The Hippocampus can now regain access to all the patterns in the database and can come out of the hypervigilant state. 

This approach is done in one session with just one part of the traumatic memory - the tipping point where it became too overwhelming to process. 

This approach takes no more than 10 minutes to create permanent changes to the way the memory is stored. The next step is to fill the space that has been created and support the client through the changes they experience as their brain 'reboots'.


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