The human brain is not a set thing; it doesn’t just appear and work perfectly it grows from nothing, from a seed, and develops and adjusts based upon it’s environment and experiences, both in the mother’s womb, and after birth.

Stress, any form of stress, releases a chemical that interferes with the developing brain. So if the mother is stressed while the baby is still in her womb, this will affect the babies brain, and if the baby is stressed any time from birth, this also affects the way the babies brain develops.

All babies are subject to stress, both in the womb, and during and after birth, and as infants, children, teenagers, etc. In that sense, if you are going to use the terms damaged or traumatised, then we are all to some extent damaged and traumatised.

To some extent, some stress may actually be good for the developing brain, as it teaches the infant to deal with stress. Problems occur, though, with excessive high levels of stress, especially prolonged stress; situations the baby cannot deal with and that threaten survival. A baby needs to know that it’s need for survival will be looked after because it cannot look after itself. The chemicals released interfere with the developing mind, stimulating areas of the mind while turning down or switching off other areas. A child that has to deal with a high level of prolonged stress, like maternal abandonment, goes in to a high state of survival and defence. Primitive areas of the mind that deal with defence and survival kick in to high gear and develop much greater than they would otherwise in a baby that hasn’t had to deal with much stress. They step in and take care of survival. Areas of the mind that deal with coping with, dealing with and turning off the defence and survival instinct do not develop as they should. Areas of the mind geared towards defence and survival become fixed in a raised state of alert. The stress response and the survival mind, does not switch off, it is constantly looking for threat, constantly surveying and interpreting the environment for signs of threat to survival, ready to react or respond at the slightest hint of a threat or danger. This can result in perceiving indiscretions or unintentional behaviour, as intentional threats to survival and danger to existence.

This programming of the brain, without reprogramming, will pervade throughout a child’s lifetime and in to adulthood. They may never get out of this destructive cycle of experiencing slight and unintentional indiscretions as a threat to the organism. This is a purely animal response. What sets humans apart from animal is the development of an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex.

The prefrontal cortex is the higher brain, areas of it are dedicated to higher cognitive function, complex thought, calculations, and tuning down and regulating the primitive impulses. Periods of high stress, as this brain area is still developing, can cause permanent impairment; a reduced ability to handle complex situations and manage stressful situations, and rather allowing the primitive mind to step in and deal with the situation, usually with disastrous and destructive consequences.

This “hijacking” could cause further distress so other parts of the brain kick in to explain and justify to the self, the behaviour, usually by magnifying the threat or danger and finding a target or culprit with which to mount a counter attack on to the perceived source of threat.