Trauma and Memory
Updated: Jul 31
Traumatic experience such as loss, bereavement, abuse, existential trauma, whereby a life threatening experience beyond our control, such as an operation, violent attack or accident has caused us physical pain and suffering. When we experience bonding trauma, we were unable to develop a secure attachment to our caregivers. Parental trauma is passed and felt through the generations, also known as intergenerational trauma. In order to protect ourselves from that kind of pain Trauma has inflicted upon us the mind will isolate all those parts, where we feel the pain, the way we can cope with everyday life.
Memories of trauma are embedded in our body map, the are "cold" declarative memories, and the "warm" episodic memories, implicit memories, powerful and compelling. Implicit memories appears to be bound to our unconscious they only arise within a sensation, an emotion, and behaviours.
Emotions provide both relevant survival and social awareness data to our brain to inform us about appropriate responses in any given situation, emotional memories are experienced in the body as physical sensation, in the case of trauma maladaptive habitual behaviours, reactions leave the individual entangled in unresolved angst and confusion.
Emotions have the capacity to connect the deep part of ourselves, they prompt us to reach to reach out to meet our needs, how we experience ourselves, with our vitality, and purposeful direction in life. The price we pay for the shielding of it comes to high price, our unconscious tells us to avoid relationships, to shield away form emotions and feelings, to reach out for the bottle or recreational drugs as these alleviate those painful memories and makes it all more bearable, but it is only a short lived panacea.
In quoting Freud "What the mind has forgotten, the body has not.....thankfully" emotional memories flag out those impulses, movements and internal body sensations. Images, muscle tension patterns, posture, facial expressions, voluntary gestures are all belong to the individual experience and processing of trauma memories.
When we enter therapy we are likely to experience at conscious level those painful embedded memories, painful feelings, emotional responses. We may feel confused or uncertain. We may struggle to see the way ahead, hence the psychological holding of a therapist unable the flow of unravelling while processing the trauma, within a safe environment in confidentiality and congruent compassionate approach. We can learn to observe and notice what is happening within us, what our limits are, what we are ready to discover, whilst listening to the inner voice of our healthy self, we can start making positive changes.
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