As you read this, millions are suffering from trauma or traumatic memories. But they don’t need to be suffering. Traumatic memory is of a different type, different in nature, to a neutral or pleasant memory. Most memories fade with time; they become less intense as yesterday becomes last week, last month and eventually last year. It starts to seem like a long time ago. But traumatic memories- memories that make you feel terrified- don’t work like that. Until they’ve been detraumatised, they feel recent- even current- whenever you experience them. And that’s why these memories continue to feel threatening: because they don’t feel as if they’re in the past; they feel as if they’re happening now.
If you want to test whether a memory is really traumatic for someone, then you need to ask “ When you think about that time now, does it seem very recent as compared to other memories from around the same time?’ So often people will describe the memory as incredibly vivid, as if it could have been happening yesterday, last week, or even happening again each time they recall the event. No wonder it feels threatening!
So why do traumatic memories not fade with time, like neutral or happy memories? A normal memory will be processed in the hippocampus, which is the art of the brain that processes new learning and recent events. When a memory starts to feel less recent, then it starts to be activated in different areas of the neocortex. So old memories feel less recent because they are stored in, literally, a different part of your mind. But incredibly high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can block this natural process from occurring, so the memory doesn’t fade and is constantly reactivated in the hippocampus ( the brain centre that deals with recent memory) and therefore alerts the amygdala ( your emergency warning system( as if it’s happening in the present time. So it feels very recent or current to think about it.
The Rewind Technique
Gone are the days when terrorized clients need to ‘get into their pain” or spend weeks or even months trying to overcome horrendous experiences. The brain of a traumatised person is trying to process a pattern so that it can be logged in the brain as “past” and therefore not threatening and not current. Until this process either happens naturally or nature is given a helping hand through a technique I use such as “The Rewind Technique”, the person may remain stuck in a traumatic reality. When you use this technique, you effectively recode the way the memory is processed, which means that henceforth it feels more distant and starts to feel “past” rather than “current”. Because the brain can learn very quickly, people can learn phobias and become traumatised in a matter of seconds. But fortunately, the brain can also learn how to return to non-traumatised ways of operation very quickly, too.
Eye movement desensitisation realignment (EMDR)
Over the last few years, this treatment has been adopted by many health authorities and they have trained their staff in its protocols. Although they have good measures of success, the clients have to be exposed to thinking about the stimuli and as mentioned before this can provoke distress.
Emotional freedom technique: (EFT)
This involves tapping along the meridian lines of the body (as recognised by ancient acupuncture techniques). It has been suggested that EFT and EMDR have success because they tap into the same process as the Rewind. They serve as a distraction technique as the brain is processing the trauma.