Moving Beyond Trauma

Trauma Family

Perhaps one of the most popular approaches emerging from social work and public health is to help mothers with PTSD to deal with their infants so that they don’t reproduce their angst and stress in their young children.

The latest and best research in this area is the Polyvagal Theory by Dr. Stephen Porges. This truly is not theory, but rather the most significant and substantial research we have today in the area of what predisposes us to sympathetic nervous system, cortisol-driven, learned responses to trauma of any kind.

Trauma is trauma, just in degrees.

Focus on the trauma, and you will grow the reptilian brain’s identification with the trauma.

However, if you entirely change the focus to the parasympathetic potentials of the brain, and its very different different neuropathways, you grow a brain more frontal-lobe dependent.

I can promise you that whatever the past may be, that the future is always more compelling, if we will allow that change in our billion dollar, pharma-based, overly medicalized culture.

This “if” requires a huge shift from our focus on healing the past as the solution.


Once more, the future is more compelling than our past is in binding us.

We build that compelling future by taking the attention away from the focus on trauma, and place it on the discovery of scientifically tested strengths and their growth, and on identifying and growing the ever-present resiliency of the person.

Time is a great healer, when that time is filled with a focus on “can do”, “can be”, “can care”, “can give”, “can achieve”, “can find meaning”, “can find purpose”, “can contribute”, can learn one’s strengths, and can love others.

We are more compelled by the future than we are bound by the past.

Evolution depends on that truth!

We will never create the perfect world where mothers only pass on to their children high vagal tone, more resistant to trauma.

We can, though, teach their offspring that mother is not to blame, and that resiliency to trauma and recovery are within our grasp.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

About the author

Dr. Donald B. Johnson
  • Mary Garvey Horst

    My own lived experience of resiliency sprung out of the calling forth (and sometimes pushing) by the caring, supportive adults around me to place my focus on “can do”, “can be”, “can care”, “can give”, “can achieve”, “can find purpose”, “can find meaning”, “can find purpose”, “can contribute”, “can learn one’s strengths”, and “can love others”.

  • Dr. gloria wright

    Disappointments and even trauma will occur in our lives. Most
    of us probably have some mild (or major) PTSD. As it is said, “we can’t unring that bell.” We can build and strengthen the neuropathways in our brains by focusing on the positive. With mindful repetition,
    we can build new neuropathways and strengthen our resilience.
    Dr. Barbara Fredrickson talks about broaden and build. Her
    theory, with much scientific research to back it up, is that if we become
    conscious of our thoughts and emotions and beliefs, and focus on the positive ones, over time we can build up a reserve and strengthen our positive reactions. It’s really about managing our attention.
    With trauma, we often have a visceral reaction when the old
    wounds are triggered. When I was in college, I had an auto accident at a
    railroad crossing. The roads were wet and my car skidded when I applied my brakes. After the accident, the sound of a train or a train whistle would shoot through my body and create a very real tensing up. This in some ways is a trite example, but I use it to stress the automatic reaction. It was months before my body slowly began to not respond so dramatically. We are all susceptible to these reactions.
    Thank goodness, we now know there are ways to better manage
    our reactions. When we change our focus to the parasympathetic potentials of the brain, we can grow new and different
    To quote Dr. Larkin, “Time is a great healer, when that time
    is filled with a focus on ‘can do,’ ‘can be,’ ‘can care,’ ‘can give,’ ‘can achieve,’ ‘can find meaning,’ ‘can find purpose,’ ‘can contribute,’ can learn one’s strengths, and can love others.”

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute