So if the body remembers, and the body keeps the score – which it does, then HSPs must have a really high score within today’s industrial climate!
Let’s explore what happens when stress and emotional trauma happens because whether a person is HSP or not, the mechanism of action is the same. It’s just more frequent for the HSP. When emotional trauma is experienced a person either processes the trauma, or gets stuck in the fight-flight response. Or there’s another option, they can go straight to the freeze response.
Remember, this is regardless of whether or not the person remembers the trauma. It might have been very early in life, for example before the age of four. We are then faced with some form attachment trauma, usually meaning that we don’t properly bond with our mum, dad or a caregiver. This is frightfully common too. To put it simply, the body remembers, so even if you don’t intellectually recall the scenario, your body keeps a score. It’s been said that time doesn’t heal, rather, it conceals. Meaning there’s a shift that happens from the exact time when that trauma happens, shunting biology into freeze and ‘shutting down’, pushing you closer to your transmarginal inhibition tipping-point.
What is the definition of trauma?
The definition of ‘trauma’ is when an event happens that overwhelms our biology and when we’re not able to process the overwhelm at the time that it happens. So essentially, scrambled messages get pushed out of conscious view and compartmentalised into the unconscious part of our brains, and translated into the biology and nervous system.
What does this look like?
Biologically speaking, the downstream consequence might present as anything .. but on a systems-biology level there’s a neuroendocrine immune reset point from the date the trauma happened.
- It changes the entire HPA, hypothalamic-pituitary-axis and the way that the HPA axis functions
- It changes the gut bacteria
- It reduces digestive enzymes
- The body stops detoxifying
So does general stress in your life have this same impact?
For instance, when you are very busy just running around?
Yes, it’s having the same impact. In fact, the cascading impact to trauma is profound and just as impactful on detoxification systems.
Not all trauma is emotional trauma. Eating toxic foods such as refined sugars, refined flours and any food that your body does not recognise as food creates trauma. So we are dealing with a chicken and egg scenario when it comes to trauma impacting our detoxification system, resulting in a higher toxic load, increasing cellular trauma and decreasing capacity for detoxification.
It’s very difficult to avoid stressors in our environment and it’s inevitable that we’re going to get exposed to toxins, so ideally, we need to be regulating our HPA axis and our nervous system on a daily basis. No one’s exempt.
Realistically, everyone has some type of emotional trauma; from divorce or death or their early attachment issues and lifelong subjective stress. HSPs with a low threshold and high perception of stress are more impacted by getting chronic complex illnesses too; such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, fibromyalgia etc.
What’s also significant and interesting, is that where you sit on the HSP spectrum has roots in your family history. All trauma leaves a legacy, so the process of how you arrived at your level of sensitivity maybe the result of trauma experienced over more than one’s own lifetime. In plain language, emotional trauma leaves a legacy and being an HSP is often transgenerational.
For example, we know that third-generation survivors of the Holocaust have the same physiological and psychological expression and even gene expression in their microbiome, as their grandparents. The trauma and resulting biological changes are passed down through the sperm line and imprinted within the gut. Which means that our ability to detox, and other health determinations resulting from trauma are epigenetically passed on from our parents and grandparents.
And then, there’s attachment trauma. Research shows that attachment trauma happens between the day of conception, and anytime up to the age of four. During this phase of growth, Baby’s mirror neurons and neural pathways develop in response to other people mirroring back to Baby.
Mirror neurons: If you have an empathic, caring, loving mother, you’ll develop these qualities too. But if you do not, and instead have a mother who is emotionally detached or damaged, you probably will not develop these loving qualities. Instead you may go on to develop attachment issues, resulting in an inability to self-soothe which further leads to difficulty regulating anxiety and depression due to feeling unsafe in the world.
These people go on to live in sympathetic over-drive and tend to get addicted to work and over-giving resulting in workaholism and not being able to relax. So we no longer rest, digest, detox easily.
Let’s now look at the mechanisms of how emotional trauma blocks detoxification and even how heavy metals themselves can promote anxiety and depression and mental health issues. The chicken-egg vicious cycle that was mentioned earlier.