A truth as strong as gravity

October 13, 2016 psychologyWriting  2 comments

SPOILER ALERT: from this point on, I will be examining Running to Stand Still in-depth. If you haven’t read it yet and don’t want it spoiled for you, stop reading now.

“The greatest sources of our suffering are the lies we tell ourselves.” Elvin Semrad

To understand Jamie is to understand that trauma marks every single part of her. Everything she does, the way she thinks, the way she perceives the world, are all systemic of the prolonged trauma inflicted on her by her mom leaving, and the consequences of her subsequent downward spiral into drinking and drugs.

But to understand trauma it to understand that, above all else, humans are wired to survive.

The most important job of the brain is to ensure our survival, even under the most miserable conditions. Everything else is secondary.

Trauma fundamentally changes everything in an instant. “In one terrifying moment” your life is split in two: Before and After. Except the After is just a shadow of what it should be because compared to the trauma, everything else is irrelevant.

Traumatized people have a tendency to superimpose their trauma on everything around them and have trouble deciphering whatever is going on around them.

Traumatized people look at the world in a fundamentally different way from other people.

Rather than risk experimenting with new options they stay stuck in the fear that they know.

No matter how much insight and understanding we develop, the rational brain is basically impotent to talk the emotional brain out of its own reality.

Being traumatized means continuing to organize your life as if the trauma were still ongoing—unchanged and immutable—as every new encounter or event is contaminated by the past.

When the brain’s alarm system is turned on, it automatically triggers preprogrammed physical escape plans in the oldest parts of the brain … when the old brain takes over, it partially shuts down the higher brain, our conscious mind, and propels the body to run, hide, fight, or, on occasion, freeze.     

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Jamie cannot see that there are other options besides staying because the lies she’s been living with feel like absolutes. From Collin’s, or the reader’s, perspective, her reasoning is flawed. But to her, it’s the only rational course of action if she wants to save herself from her history of being left, drug use, and loss of control. To her, it’s the only way she can stop the pain.


The right brain stores memories of sound, touch, smell, and the emotions they evoke. It reacts automatically to voices, facial features, and gestures and places experienced in the past. What it recalls feels like intuitive truth—the way things are.

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But because their left brain is not working very well, they may not be aware that they are re-experiencing and reenacting the past—they are just furious, terrified, enraged, ashamed, or frozen.

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Because she has repeated it to herself over and over again for the past nine years, she genuinely believed that she must leave. Which makes her just like her mom. Which makes her a horrible, selfish person.


People with PTSD have their floodgates wide open. Lacking a filter, they are on constant sensory overload. In order to cope, they try to shut themselves down and develop tunnel vision and hyper-focus. 
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Her mom told her not to get stuck here. By staying “stuck” here, she lost control which led to her doing drugs and drinking, which led to her getting pregnant, which led to her getting an abortion, which was painful and traumatizing. So, she focused on being there for Nate. Leaving when he graduated was her reward for staying sober.


Imitation is our most fundamental social skill. It assures that we automatically pick up and reflect the behavior of our parents, teachers, and peers.

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Jamie learns from Charlie that you don’t talk about your pain, you don’t show it, you just deal with it by yourself.
And from her mom, she learns that leaving is the only course of action. That to stay is to slowly fade away.

Secrets like these become inner toxins—realities that you are not allowed to acknowledge to yourself or to others but that nevertheless become the template of your life.


All italicized quotes are direct from The Body Keeps the Score.
pgs. 17, 17, 55, 30, 47, 53, 54, 45, 45, 70, 112, 306



Until next time, farewell & may your life never cease to be filled with wonder and curiosity.

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