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Disclaimer: I am not a brain or brain rewiring expert. I am simply sharing my personal journey and my personal understanding as it makes sense to me.
Warning to Brain Retrainers (Possible Triggers)
I originally shared this post in November 2023. I later decided to unpublish it. Digging in and trying to figure out when and how our limbic system impairments occurred really should be avoided through training.
But here I am, a few months later, feeling the desire to go ahead and republish it. I just wanted to share a little warning in case you’d rather avoid this post.
When Did My Limbic System Impairment Begin?
While I’ve been working on brain rewiring for nearly two years now, I still see this as relatively new for me. New in the sense that I’m always amazed by the ah-ha moments and the things I learn along the way. And while the thing that brought me to brain retraining began twenty years ago, the thing I question sometimes is, ‘when did my limbic system decide to become overprotective?’ When did it start creating such an unnecessary fight, flight, or freeze response?
I know that I’ll never have the real answer, and that’s OK. I try to avoid digging into those thoughts. I wonder, however, if I have had a limbic system impairment my entire life. I wonder, for example, if the fact that I was an extreeeemly shy child was actually a maladapted stress response.
It was a severe sensitivity to fragrance chemicals that brought me to brain rewiring in March 2022. Through this journey, I’m gaining a better understanding of myself and of how our brains work. Note: better understanding does not mean complete understanding. It’s more like a slowly increasing awareness.
I now recognize aspects of myself and my personality that are (or might be) connected to limbic system impairment. Aspects that have been a part of me for as long as I can remember.
According to studies, stress and trauma can impact our genes. They can determine which genes are turned on. Genes that can possibly be passed down to future generations.
I am not well read on epigenetics. Science in general was never my strength. But wow is it ever fascinating. Simply scanning studies through a Google search, articles on studies regarding the impact trauma has on the brain is intriguing. What’s even more interesting is the suggestion that these changes can be inter-generational.
I struggle with sharing my thoughts and my understanding through a public blog sometimes. Please remember. I am not an expert in the field. I’m simply someone trying to understand myself more clearly and to connect the dots through my life experiences and my life education. Sometimes these dot connections just make a lot of sense to me.
As I discovered when I shared my year-long series, The Emotional Side of Gluten Free, I learn more about myself as I work through my writing. This is the case for me now. As I share my journey, occasional light bulbs seem to get turned on.
I don’t look back on my childhood as one of “trauma.” I have allowed myself to feel that if we weren’t physically or sexually abused we don’t have the “right” to say we may have had trauma in our lives. And this is a misconception. Trauma comes in many forms. But what if some of that “trauma” is from generations past?
The study and understanding of trauma and of adverse childhood experiences on our adult lives is relatively new. And the concept of past generations’ trauma having an impact on future generations is simply mind boggling. But it also makes sense. To me, anyway.
With this “sense” also comes the “sense” of brain rewiring. I wish I could transfer my thoughts and beliefs more eloquently and with more fact-based research to attach to it. But this isn’t a research article. This is my understanding of the dots that I’m connecting. It might resonate with you. It might not. For me, it sings loudly in my brain–and will be a great read for me in the future as I look back on my thoughts through my journey.
Parents Are Simply Human
As I said above, I don’t look back on my childhood as one of “trauma.” But I was a child who was raised in the 60’s by parents who were raised through the depression.
Simple life circumstances and the way childhood is seen by adults impacts childhood. The thing is, parents are human beings. To look at my parents as having done anything “wrong” as they felt their way through family life, I’d also have to look at my own parenting and wonder how I impacted my own kids. Which I do. ha I know there are things that would have made my childhood better. I feel the natural guilt over things I could have done better as a parent myself.
The thing is, simply becoming a parent doesn’t make a person an expert on child rearing. We automatically bring our histories to the table along with our own insight, or lack of insight. We are human beings. Beings. Be-ings. We can only “be” the best we can be. And for the most part, we don’t always even know what that means.
Signs of Limbic System Impairment?
As a child born in the 60’s, I didn’t always feel that my voice was important. I was loved, but I don’t feel that I had a voice. Was that simply my perception, or was this fact? It was probably somewhere in between. I was a very sensitive child. I was an exteeeemly shy child. And now, I look at that and wonder, “limbic system impairment?”
I had severe childhood asthma. According to my mom, I had my first asthma attack as an infant. I was just two weeks old. Was this due to stress in the household? Generational trauma? Cigarette smoke? All of the above?
My parents grew up in the depression era. Stress was a part of their lives. Everyone shared the same bath water. Food was not wasted. Food was definitely not plentiful. Understanding this and understanding my personal unsettledness in finances (even when there is no need to be) has me wondering if this is an example of something that has been passed down to me through the genes that have been turned on in past generations.
Finding My Voice
As a child, I remember wanting to run away. What child doesn’t? But I also remember thinking that I wanted to run away in order to see a psychologist. This may sound odd. Actually, it sounds odd to me! But I literally remember having this thought and desire. And I believe this was before I was even ten.
I don’t think I ever expressed this desire out loud. We weren’t a family that used counselors or therapists. I don’t even know where I heard of the idea or heard that word, “psychologist.” Maybe it was through talk shows that played in the background on daytime TV. Who knows. But I think, in looking back, it was the child in me that simply had a need to be heard. I just wanted someone who would understand what was inside of me. Not to fix anything. Just to understand.
And this is something I carry to this day. Raise your hand if you feel you struggle with being understood. Who doesn’t?–at least to some extent. And who truly understands themselves? For me, understanding that there may be a connection between basic personality and intergenerational factors, is fascinating. And it gives more power to the tool I have to change this. Brain rewiring.
An Ounce of Prevention
*Special Note: Kids take in what’s going on around them. They don’t just take in the words. They take in the emotions. The grief. The anger. The fear. And it impacts their brains. They hear and feel the arguments and stress just as easily as they hear and feel the laughter and joy. If the news is on continuously, looping and re-looping the latest world catastrophies, they absorb that. It’s not just background noise.
As a (retired) early childhood professional, and as someone who has an increasingly better understanding of how the connections we make in our brains impacts our well being, I think more about our kids and the things they face today. Awareness and intentionality in things we avoid and include in our kids lives is so important.
Look at the news, violent television programming and video games as weights that are being put on our kids. These stressors are burdening our children unnecessarily and they are changing their brains. Life provides enough natural burdens.
By consciously eliminating what we have control of and by consciously providing more exposure to sunshine, conversation with eye contact, laughter, and connection, we can help our kids build stronger positive neural connections and stronger brains that will help them through future years.