Trauma and Recovery

When we suffer the trauma of abuse or other experiences that are overwhelmingly unpleasant, we dissociate. This is a natural mechanism that allows us to survive trauma.
But, dissociation is only the first half of surviving trauma.

Later, when the danger has passed, we must reassociate. We must return to the trauma in our mind and rejoin with the emotional effect of it. In this way we can bring together the parts of our mind that was split by the traumatic experience.

Once rejoined, that part of our mind can again function normally and contribute to our improved survival. We can get on with life.

This mechanism to deal with trauma is quite amazing. We naturally and unconsciously separate our response to trauma into 2 pieces in our mind. Its automatic. The physical experience cant be postponed, but the emotional effect in the mind can be separated and put safely aside. Later, the emotional effect, which was separated and postponed, can be dealt with at our convenience. Its so great we have this naturally inbuilt mechanism to protect our mind from the full effect of traumatic experiences.

When the trauma is too great, we simply can’t cope with both the physical and emotional trauma simultaneously. Splitting allows us to cope, and later we can return in physical safety to complete the process of survival.

Yet, if we dont return later and rejoin the separated parts of our mind that hold the trauma, we remain ‘damaged’ (uncompleted) and cannot return fully to our lives.
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I want to thank Athena and Bobbi from traumarecoveryuniversity.com for inspiring this realization in me. I was watching their 2 hour video special on accepting the reality of abuse. As always, their videos inspire light bulbs in my understanding.

Trauma and Recovery

Memories of fear

At times, we may feel fear, when it either doesn’t make any sense at all, or it is unnecessarily strong. In these situation we are experiencing a memory of fear. This is a memory of a past event where we experienced fear, yet we have suppressed the memory and are only aware of the fear.

In response to traumatic experiences, our minds can use the technique of separating consciousness. This allows us to forget the experience and survive until we are safe. We are able to put things out of our mind, so that we can focus on protecting ourselves or getting to safety.

The mind takes enough consciousness to contain the emotion of the experience, and places it inside the memory, and files it away. This is the mechanism of intentional forgetting. The consciousness in that memory remains there, stuck at that time, but it is still connected to us.Also it still has access to our 6 physical senses*, and if it notices a situation that reminds it of the initial trauma, it will trigger the feeling in the memory. We will feel fear, yet not understand why.

The stronger the emotion held by the memory, the stronger the emotion felt in the present. Triggering extreme trauma can result in a panic attack. This is possible because consciousness is not actually divisible. We are separate emotions in the same way waves in water are separate. The same is true for our mind. Those forgotten memories cannot be completely separated.

These forgotten memories retain their emotion, often affecting our lives in negative ways. They remain this way until we retrieve and heal them. We can do this once we have found safety, yet our culture teaches us to never allow this healing.

To heal these memories, we need to allow the emotion when it arises. It may be as simple as grieving the emotion away. In some cases we don’t even remember the memory. Other times we need to use healing tools to trace the feel I to its memory. Some therapists have these skills, but most do not. Once we acquire these tools, we can use them ourselves. Whatever way we heal, grieving is required to clear the trapped emotion. We must allow ourselves to cry.

Therapists that are trained to help with PTSD from childhood or war trauma are more likely to know the tools required to clear emotion from intentionally forgotten beliefs.

The mechanism of forgetting, and later healing, is quite simple and easy to understand. Not so easy to do. Its really worth the effort! Initially, emotion released can be overwhelming, but it passes each time, and decreases as healing progresses.

* as well as the 5 physical senses we learn about, there is a sixth. We are a receiver and transmitter of electromagnetic energy and possess a complex energy field. We can send and receive a lot of information with this tool. Also, there is our connection with universal consciousness, that can be interpreted as a non physical sense.

Memories of fear