When we experience a traumatic event, it causes neurobiological changes in our brain. The neurotransmitter noradrenaline tells the brain to switch to a state of alarm. This is good because if we’re being chased by a tiger, we need more energy to run away. But if a child is in a perpetually dangerous environment of domestic violence, then this stress response system turns on so often that it becomes detrimental.
When a child sees Dad hitting Mom, the child’s brain circuit connecting the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland gets flooded with a stress hormone called CRF. If this limbic system gets activated over and over, a higher level of CRF can cause a child to react to emotional triggers.
So, does that mean if you grew up with domestic violence that you could attract violent people into your life that re-create familiar trauma? Yes. If our brain has become wired to respond to trauma and abuse, then our brain chemistry becomes addicted to those emotional experiences.
Because of the way I grew up, the same kinds of people—psychopaths and sociopaths—kept showing up in my life, until I had an awakening and broke that self-destructive pattern. The brain is amazing in its ability to heal. And that’s good news for trauma survivors.