Elephant In the Room
August 20, 2021
BY Bobbi Jo Lowe, LPC,NCC,MITS,CCATP,CGCS
It's ancient history! So, why is it that memories from our past can resurface way beyond their expiration date? Clients often come to therapy to try and understand feelings and behaviors. Sometimes, it is an overwhelming sense of doom that just does not seem to be rooted in a current situation. "Everything in my life is pretty good" I will hear. "I don't know why I am so down". I hear the same about clients who have anxiety that seems to come out of nowhere. Well, that history is not so ancient after all. I think it is safe to say that everyone has at least one incident that they wish they could forget during their lifetime. Incidents do not have to be abuse or severe in order to be registered in our minds/bodies as trauma imprints. It can be something that seems pretty minor to many well adjusted adults. However, there are a few things to know about the brain/body memory. The fact that you had an intense reaction to something that triggered the parasympathetic nervous system (ie: fight, flight, freeze) to engage is enough to imprint our miraculous minds. This happens even prior to our verbal skills allowing us to communicate what it is that is happening to us. So, for example, a child who cannot yet speak could still have an incident (maybe a very large/loud dog barking) which startles her/him invoking a sensitivity to noises, dogs or both. Later in life, that person may develop the same reaction to a sudden clap of thunder, and yet be a lover of storms. They may wonder where the "fear of thunder" came from. The truth is that it isn't a fear of thunder it is a sensitivity to loud/sudden noises. This is because until we deactivate the memory response, we will react to the triggers. This is where EMDR techniques in therapy can truly help. The bodies we walk around in have the capacity to heal, but need to be led in that direction. So, if you have the sense that you "shouldn't" be angry or depressed because your life is ultimately very satisfying; however, you feel distress, this may be a type of therapy that will be most beneficial for you. There is a very well written book "The Body Keeps the Score", written by: Bessel A, van der Kolk, M.D. that includes the research and description of this concept. By getting the proper therapy, it can become ancient history/historical data, as opposed to raw triggers that send you spiraling. Take Good CARE!