Memory is not factual, and that matters
Disturbing memories can be difficult and troubling to be with. When they come to dominate experience, or intrude uninvited on day to day living, then they need to be dealt with. At their worst, memories may manifest as post traumatic stress disorder, a condition that can blight living.
When exploring the heritage of symptoms of disturbance, it sometimes surprises clients that their mind makes connections between seemingly unrelated events, and even perhaps that symbols, metaphors and things not directly experienced come up as significant.
While it may sometimes surprise, these are not uncommon experiences. Memory is not a factual function, it is a multi-faceted sensory and emotional one. Different elements of memories (sights, sounds, feelings, smells/tastes, thoughts) are stored in different parts of the brain, the memory itself is in essence a network.
The brain makes connections between different memories through any of the network elements, this is why a smell or sound can be so evocative for us even when disconnected from matches in different elements of our experience.
While this means that triggers for trauma can be many and varied, it also means the options for treatment are multiple. The mis-named therapy EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is one option for addressing troubling memories that can work with complete memories, or resolve troubling symptoms by working with the dominant issue, for example an emotion or bodily sensation. These symptoms can be bridged back to their origin without the client needing to talk through their entire trauma history, and treatment can be effective at reducing and eliminating symptoms. EMDR sees the brain as an Adaptive Information Processing System, meaning that we know that the way information is accessed and processed, and the resulting emotions, body sensations and thoughts can change.
If you have troubling symptoms from another time and place intruding into your present life, therapy may be a useful option for you. Why not search the directory to find a therapist who matches what you are looking for?
About the author
Fe Robinson is a psychotherapist, couples counsellor and supervisor working in Durham on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays with some evening appointments available. Her mission is to help clients thrive, whatever their life circumstances, she specialises in trauma and relationship challenges. For grounded, authentic support, get in touch.
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