Any physical response that occurred in your past, even a normal response to a physical trauma, can be activated at any time, even years later, by having a similar feeling to that which you had at the time of the trauma. How is this possible?
It occurs this way: An area of your brain that coordinates your physical body with your feelings or emotions is always at work. This area of your brain is called your insula. It is an area located in your cortex. This area of your brain is in constant communication with many areas of your brain as well as many glands of your body. What’s important to know is this communication goes from the physical body to your conscious awareness and from conscious thoughts to activating your physical body. It is a two-way communication system. Your conscious mind or your subconscious memory can activate the same system. An example of subconscious memory triggering a physical response is when you reach for your wallet in your right pocket, and it is not there, instantly you notice a feeling all over your body. This feeling occurs before you find it in your left pocket. Or when you reach for your cell phone in a certain pocket in your purse only to find it at the bottom after that initial moment of fear. The neurological network that activates the insula is sometimes called the HPA axis –the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. What we are learning about here is called our emotional brain or limbic system. These examples help you to begin to understand that there really is no separation between your mind and your body.
Another example of this is if you felt embarrassed, careless, or stupid when you fell down in public, you just created a feeling associated with the physical trauma, and both are stored in memory. All you can recall about the fall is that you looked around to see if anyone saw you!
Really, the important occurrence was the flight-fight response, which was activated as you fell. So, any time in the future that you have a feeling of embarrassment, carelessness, or stupidity, it could trigger the fight-flight response.
Since you may have one or more of these feelings several times a day, this survival system could, over time, become exhausted. And this exhaustion is the first step to all chronic diseases.
Maybe, instead of feeling embarrassed or careless or stupid when you fell, you could have been instantaneously thankful you didn’t break anything when you fell. If you had done that, you would have created a different feeling/emotion in memory and a different neurological pathway to be processed by your emotional brain (limbic system). This pathway would have been a positive pathway, causing a positive feeling to be stored in memory. And when this memory is activated in the future, it will not start the fight-flight response. That’s why it’s so important to use conscious brain activity more positively.