Editor’s note: Lovefraud welcomes a new author, Attorney Caroline Parsons from Queensland, Australia. Today she explains how the violence — physical and emotional — of toxic relationships affects your brain. Learn more about Caroline Parsons on the Lovefraud Announcements page or in her author profile.
By Caroline Parsons, Esq.
In prehistoric times, when a caveman realised he had been spotted by a sabre-toothed tiger, his primitive brain flooded his body with cortisol so he could fight or escape the beast. “Freezing” (or becoming immobile) is also a response to extreme threat. When a modern brain reacts in a similar way to a traumatic event, it can result in post-traumatic stress.
Australian law defines “family violence” as violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a family member or causes the family member to be fearful. Examples of such behavior include repeated derogatory taunts, unreasonably denying financial autonomy and preventing the family member from connecting with their friends, family or culture.
Research shows that an episode of family violence can activate the primitive brain’s fight, flight or freeze response. Repeated episodes of family violence may cause the brain’s threat response to be repeatedly activated. In other words, the family member will suffer trauma over and over again. This is increasingly known as “complex trauma.”
Unfortunately, threats do not need to be physical to be traumatic. Our brains will also process verbal and emotional abuse (like derogatory taunts) as a threat. If you are in a toxic relationship characterised by family violence, whether physical, verbal or emotional, your brain thinks you are being chased by a tiger every day. As you can imagine, this is likely to affect your well-being and a wide spectrum of functioning.
As Mahatma Gandhi once said: “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.”
This article was originally printed at Solo-Legal.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.