top of page
  • Writer's pictureJustin Tilghman, Ph.D.

The Brain’s Joy Center: How Trauma Impacts Our Joy

Updated: 2 days ago

Our brain is an incredibly complex and efficient organ, and understanding how trauma impacts it is crucial for healing. A key area affected by trauma is the brain’s "joy center." This part of the brain, located in the right prefrontal cortex (right behind your right eye), is essential for processing and experiencing joy.


So, what is joy? For the sake of our discussion, let’s define joy as “glad to be togetherness.” Joy is the feeling we get when we are with someone who delights in us, and when we sense that we are someone others delight in. It's that warm, uplifting feeling of being the "sparkle in someone's eye."


Image of a brain


Importance of Joy

Joy is vital for our well-being. It comes from being in relationship with God and others. When we realize that God knows everything about us and delights to be with us in Christ, we experience the deepest and greatest joy. Joy can be thought of as the “air in the ball” – the more joy we have, the better we bounce back from life’s difficulties. Without it, we fall flat.


Impact of Trauma on the Joy Center

Trauma, in its various forms, disrupts our joy pathways and our ability to function effectively. Here’s how it happens:


  • Information in the brain travels from left to right. The right side processes emotions first, while the left side handles problem-solving and storytelling. This means that before your logical brain can engage, your emotional brain has already reacted. For example, if you've had a traumatic experience with a dog, seeing a dog will trigger anxiety before your logical brain can assess if the dog is friendly.

  • Trauma impacts the joy center, leading to difficulties in experiencing joy and regulating emotions. It can create an imprint that triggers emotional responses before logical thinking has a chance to intervene.

  • Trauma also attacks our sense of identity and impairs our ability to relate to others and to God. Relationships are a major source of joy, so when trauma disrupts these, it inhibits our ability to experience joy and regulate emotions.


Reduced Emotional Resilience and Identity Loss

When trauma disrupts our joy center, it results in:

  • A reduced ability to handle stress.

  • Lowered emotional resilience.

  • A tendency toward negative emotions.

  • A cycle of feeling "stuck."


This cycle perpetuates the feelings of being unable to bounce back from life’s difficulties. If we want to break this cycle, we must address the trauma and rebuild our joy capacity.


Conclusion

Understanding how trauma impacts the brain’s joy center is essential for healing. Trauma disrupts our ability to experience joy, regulate emotions, and maintain healthy relationships. In the next post, we will explore the development process of trauma, including wounds, lies, vows, and strongholds. Stay tuned to learn more about how to identify and heal these deep-seated issues.


 

Dr. Justin Tilghman is a board-certified master life and mental health coach and certified NeuroMindfuless® Practitioner who specializes in helping clients live purposeful, meaningful, fulfilling, and balanced lives that make the most of their God-given potential.

Comments


Commenting has been turned off.

Justin is a Board Certified Advanced Life Coach with the Board of Christian Life Coaching, a division of the International Board of Christian Care and the American Association of Christian Counselors. He has demonstrated knowledge and application of biblical integration in coaching, the ICCA and ICF Core Competencies, the Code of Ethics, and the ICF definition of coaching.

image.png

Justin is a Board Certified Master Mental Health Coach with the Board of Mental Health Coaching, a division of the International Board of Christian Care and the American Association of Christian Counselors. He has demonstrated knowledge and application of biblical integration in providing ethical and competent mental health coaching.

bottom of page