How trauma leads to depression and how to heal

Feb 12, 2020Depression

When depression hits, it is a blow to our life energy. Why? What is happening in the brain at these times? And do we have any recourse? Is it possible to leverage what we know about neuroscience and resonant language to have an effect?

I come to this inquiry in deep reverence and curiosity, because I spent my early and adult life smothered by chronic, unwavering, deeply immobilizing depression.

I’ve since learned that the way in which my brain slowly became accustomed to collapse, to slowing down almost to a halt, robbed of a sense of meaning or purpose, makes perfect sense based on the trauma I’ve experienced.

What DOESN’T make sense is that most of us are under the impression that depression is caused by biochemical imbalance, and is a permanent state of chronic disease.

This reductionist story–spun by powerful pharmaceutical companies and often perpetuated by trauma-illiterate psychiatrists–ignores and obscures the psychosocial and traumatic underpinnings of depression.

I explore the full story in my < 2019 Depression webinar LINK HERE > where I share the latest research about what causes depression, which treatments works and which don’t, and what kind of support we can give ourselves and others in the face of depression.

Top 5 neuroscience insights about depression:

#1: Depression isn’t caused by biochemical imbalances that have no known origin, as many have previously thought. Instead, depression has a laundry list of precursors and predictors that are complex and multifaceted:

    • Trauma (psychological, intergenerational, systemic)
    • Aloneness
    • Chronic stress
    • Perfectionism
    • Authoritarian parenting (restrictive, punitive, without warmth)
    • Psychosocial factors leading to helplessness
    • Resentment/dislike of the self
    • Inflammation and chronic pain
    • Some effects of hormonal cycles
    • Malfunctions of the cerebellum (trauma like sexual abuse affects the cerebellum)
    • Any of the above can be impacted, aggravated and/or initiated by socio-economic and systemic injustice such as racism, poverty, transphobia, gender disparities, ableism, et cetera

#2: Understanding poly-vagal theory, emotional circuitry, and the nervous system state changes that are part of depression helps us understand and validate our immobilization:

hand-drawn image of the phases of depression

Our nervous systems long to create and take action, to enjoy a life where we can access agency, aliveness, contribution…

When our process of seeking is disrupted by surprising blocks, challenges, and other frustrations, we can experience rage, helplessness, and eventually the immobilization that is the final stage of major depression.

#3: 69% of patients with depression present somatic symptoms in primary care settings. This means that seemingly simple problems, such as “Irritable Bowel” syndrome, often have much broader etiologies.

  • Depression makes bodies ache. Neck pain, chest pain, pelvic pain and more can all be manifestations and/or associations of depression.
  • Depression and anxiety have unique contributions to somatic complaints in depression, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases
  • We must expand our understanding of the mind body connection as we turn our attention toward our aching bodies! And encourage our physicians to do the same.

#4: Research shows that well-intentioned advice that encourages us to “remember the good times” can actually lead to more sadness!

  • Depressed patients tend to believe that “everything was better before”, “life was easier in the past”, with a feeling of nostalgia associated with the belief that the happiness of the past can’t be achieved anymore.
  • Thinking about positive memories is not an effective way to improve the mood in depressed patients (as opposed to non-depressed individuals).

#5: There are many interventions for depression, including:

  • Self-empathy and warmth. The work outlined in Your Resonant Self helps us subtract the self-hate and self-blame from the picture, relieving that burden on brain and body
  • Time-travel empathy for aloneness
  • Freeing the seeking circuit to do it’s job
  • Self-warmth and/or needs-based meditations
  • Drawing upon your ancestors
  • Discovering and releasing unconscious contracts
  • Detoxing the critical default mode network
  • Activating the CARE and PLAY circuits to balance the endocannabinoid system
  • Learning the source of our depression, which can help lead to different strategies and empathy guesses, catered to our very specific experience.

From the Blog

What are Unconscious Contracts?

What are Unconscious Contracts?

I haven't found any other process that allows us to so thoroughly disentangle the deeply patterned emotional responses and sabotage we enact on...

Free Resources

About Sarah

Sarah Peyton

Sarah Peyton

Sarah Peyton, international speaker and facilitator, has a passion for weaving together neuroscience knowledge and experiences of healing that unify people with their brains and bodies.

Cell phone with Your Resonant Self Guided Meditations Audio Book

Build a Better Brain, One Meditation at a Time


Enter your email to receive my guided meditations and free email mini-series How To Build a Nicer Brain. 

Available in Spanish and English.

You'll learn:

> Why learning about neuroscience helps us heal

> How to grow a nicer brain (hint: it's NOT mindfulness meditation!)

> Three ways to make self-kindness easier

> Why reassurance doesn't help us heal, and how to use resonance instead

> Why your inner voice is so cruel (and what to do about it!) 



Lovely, you're in! Check your email for the free meditations :)

Images of Right Hemispheric Language: a Free Gift from Sarah Opeyton

Learn How Resonant Language Can Change and Heal Your Brain

Right-hemispheric language calms our limbic system and transforms the way our brains approach stress

Fill out the form below to receive my free Resonant Language webinar to learn how and why the language we use can activate neuroplastic healing and change from even our most traumatic events.

Lovely, you're in! Check your email for your free gift.

Cell phone with Your Resonant Self Guided Meditations Audio Book

Learn the Foundational Concepts of Your Resonant Self in a Weekly Book Study Group


Once per year, I lead a live weekly study group to learn the foundational concepts of YRS.

Fill out the form below to be notified when we open for registration! 


Lovely! We'll let you know when we open for registration. Meanwhile please explore our book-related online courses

Cell phone with Your Resonant Self Guided Meditations Audio Book

Become a Certified Practitioner of Resonant Healing


This program is current full as the first cohort moves through the certification path.

Fill out the form below to learn more and be notified when we open re-open new certificate applications in 2021! 


Lovely! We'll let you know when we open for registration.

Breaking free from trauma begins with dissolving unconscious contracts


Download the Your Resonant Self Workbook guided meditations and introduction chapter to learn how to release unconscious contracts and stop self-sabotage!

Lovely, you're in! Check your email for the free gifts

sarah on computer with book

Save your spot! RSVP below


Join Sarah on May 25th for a live book launch event, featuring an unconscious contracts process and a sneak peek into the Your Resonant Self Workbook

Lovely, we can't wait to see you there! Keep an eye on your inbox for reminders about the event

birthing your resonating self witness

Meet Your Resonating Self-witnessfor a new level of self-warmth, understanding and gentleness


Fill out the form below to receive a free gift from Sarah Peyton: Birthing and nurturing your Resonating Self Witness


Lovely, you're in! Check your inbox in about 5 minutes for a link to your free gift.

Sarah Peyton Free Video Gift

Developing self-kindness takes self-trust... but how do we begin? Introducing the Resonating Self Witness.


Watch this free class from Sarah's Your Resonant Self Book Study Course to learn how to begin the journey of self-resonance and trust. No matter what traumas you've endured, healing is possible

Lovely, you're in! Check your email for a link to watch the free class

Save your Spot! RSVP below


Join Sarah on December 14th (recording provided) for a free process work demonstration on how to release the mother and father's gaze

Lovely, we can't wait to see you there! Keep an eye on your inbox for reminders about the event

Curious about the Resonant Healing Practitioner Certification?

Sarah is offering two free informational calls (Nov 19th: 9am-10:30am PST & Nov 20th: 6pm-7:30pm PST) to discuss the RHP certification path. 

If you are curious to learn more about how the RHP supports healing professionals in integrating the science and practice of resonance into their offerings, RSVP below!

Lovely, check your inbox for the zoom link. (No email? Check your spam folder!)

Save your spot! RSVP below


Join Sarah on December 8th for a live book launch event, and be elegible for a free book give-away and other bonuses!

Lovely, we can't wait to see you there! Check your email inbox (check spam folder if you don't see it!) for details on how to join

Share This