When I was a kid, my older half-brothers used to find it funny to kid around with me by convincing me of something bogus and then laughing when I discovered I’d been “had.” Typical, right? I laughed along, sometimes got annoyed with them in a sisterly way, and never really thought about it again. Fast forward a few decades, and I was sitting in a homey office with my therapist and neurofeedback provider going over the results of my QEEG brain scan. There were many fascinating findings on that scan, one of which was my brain’s high levels of recruitability.
In other words, due to the way my brain functioned, I could be easily recruited into unhealthy, false, or dangerous situations, structures, or belief systems without having any idea of what was happening. This was how my brain functioned due to developmental trauma. I remember being told that these high levels of recruitability were not my fault but that my brain could learn to function differently through neurofeedback.
After receiving this incredible information about my brain, I remembered the positive kidding around with my brothers, but I also recognized some unhealthy dynamics within my family of origin, as well as a decades-long pattern of easily falling into the hands of personality disordered people, abusers, sick systems, MLMs, crazy spiritual beliefs and more. Back then, I might feel strongly about something one day and have an opposing view the next morning or in different company. Due to structural dissociation, I might also hold two diametrically opposed views at the same time, in different parts of my traumatized self.
While my personal experiences are great illustrations, I am far from unique. Many trauma survivors struggle with both structural dissociation and high levels of recruitability. This might look like:
- Missing the red signs of abusive, unhealthy, personality disordered, spiritually unhealthy, or bigoted people and/or systems
- Flocking toward unhealthy friendships or mentoring relationships
- Inability to recognize unhealthy patterns in others
- Lack of a sense of self
- No real sense of having a gut to help guide decisions
- Lack of self-trust
- Self concept that changes depending on the company kept
- Expression of self that changes depending on triggers
- Struggles to enforce personal boundaries
- Tendency to believe what you are told
- Lack of natural and persistent questioning
- Inability to communicate clearly
- Inability to leave unhealthy situations
- Inward aggression
- Lack of resilience
- Preoccupation with others
- Tolerating inappropriate behaviors and patterns. They do not register.
When a trauma survivor is experiencing high levels of recruitability, it can be hard to tell what is true from what is false. It can be challenging to understand who is right or wrong, safe or unsafe, what to think or what to abandon. Navigating the world from the space of being highly recruitable is frightening and risky, but thankfully our brains are neuroplastic and can learn new ways of being.
For me, healing came through neurofeedback that targeted specific areas of my brain so that it could learn to function more optimally. For instance, Brodmann Area 5 was the area that showed high levels of recruitability. During neurofeedback, targetting that area (and many others) resulted in me making drastic changes to my everyday life:
- I started saying no to commitments that were not right for me.
- I left MLMs and direct sales.
- I recognized personality disordered friends and stopped engaging.
- I stopped meeting with an enmeshed mentor.
- I became aware of my true beliefs.
- I started sticking up for my beliefs.
- I learned to communicate clearly.
- I became aware of when, where, and how boundaries were needed.
- I became adept at easily setting boundaries, without taking responsibility for the other person’s response or reaction.
- I became more aware of my true self and God’s interactions with my true self.
- I experienced less anger toward myself.
As my brain felt more safe in the world and able to engage with less fear, the critical thinking abilities in the front of my brain kicked in and the fear-based way of relating to the world through the amygdala diminished greatly.
Though the past few months of dealing with racial trauma have been challenging and filled with lost friendships for my family, in some ways I celebrate those losses. Without ditching those high levels of recruitability a few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have recognized the need to end the friendships or felt worthy of setting the boundaries I needed to be healthy and keep my family safe. Now, it’s a no-brainer. Many of those friendships were decade-long, so they were formed before I received the needed relief through neurofeedback.
Another point worth celebrating is that having drastically lower levels of recruitability in my brain means that my family is not likely to fall into similar patterns with people in the future. Instead, we get to walk away a little wiser, more aware of what to look for, and with full confidence that we can avoid much interpersonal racist drama, even if we cannot escape the societal realities of racism.
If you relate to some or all of what I have shared here, you are not alone. Neurofeedback has been my path to recovery and it’s one that I love to share with clients in person and virtually, but it is not the only path forward. HeartMath is another modality that became useful for me later in my recovery, along with things like Internal Family Systems therapy, using an Alpha-Stim device, and more. If you’re not sure where to start on your own journey, feel free to request an appointment and we can talk about where to go from here.