DEFINITION OF TRAUMATIC MEMORY
Trauma is defined as a negative psychological reaction that is a direct result of an emotionally stressful experience such as abuse, injury, or combat. Each individual has a personal definition of what is traumatic for them so that what may be considered non-traumatic to one person is felt to be very traumatic by another. Therefore, the details of a trauma are not nearly as important as developing healing solutions to incidents that are perceived to be traumatic. It is not ethical for a healing practitioner to try to remove or change traumatic memories of their clients. However, there are some tools that can assist trauma survivors to reframe unpleasant past memories.
THE 3 Ds
Healing is facilitated, not by changing the past, but by changing the perception of what happened in the past. I developed a process called the 3 Ds, when working with trauma survivors:
- Discover – Identify the original trauma. Trauma can surface as memories of past occurrences that go back as far as early childhood or even to past lives.
- Defuse – Use of various techniques to work with the after-effects of trauma.
- Develop – Creating a new reaction when the original traumatic memory is triggered. Install an anchor that activates a switch toward the new reaction.
Traumatic memories may be conscious or they may be buried in the subconscious. However, there events that trigger these memories to surface. It is important to have a plan of action for when this occurs.
Be able to identify when a traumatic memory is triggered and be familiar with the symptoms of trauma. Short term symptoms of trauma may include hypervigilance, hypersensitivity, nightmares, mood swings, anxiety, phobias, amnesia, addictive behaviors, fear, or self-mutilation. Longer term effects may include chronic fatigue, chronic pain, depression, disassociation, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosomatic illnesses, or immune system problems.
The subconscious stores long term memories. All memories run along a network of neurons in the brain. The more often a memory occurs, the more the network connections are strengthened. Each time this pathway is traveled it becomes more deeply embedded in the mind. Beliefs are then created from this memory pathway.
A metaphor that illustrates this is that of a train running down a track. Each time a subsequent event triggers a traumatic memory, a train carrying thoughts and emotions, travels down a track to reach a specific reaction. This track is the neurological network in our brain. The more often the neurological network is traveled, the deeper the pathway becomes embedded or “hard-wired” in the brain.
Defusing a traumatic memory includes deconstructing the traumatic incident and desensitizing the effects of the trauma. Some very effective techniques that hypnotherapists may use are:
- Employing desensitization techniques to remove the emotional charge of the memory.
- Doing an inner child rescue.
- Creating a protection entity such as a power animal, angel, spirit guide, or super hero.
- Creating a “peaceful place” that is an alternative to the “painful place”. This virtual safe place is created from a favorite place in nature.
- Working with the sub-personalities to develop an inner support system.
- If there is a perpetrator, understanding their motive during the trauma.
A new destination (reaction) to the traumatic memory is created. The thoughts and emotions associated with the new destination should foster self-love, self-esteem, and self-empowerment.
If a new reaction is created, one that is desired more than the old familiar pattern, there is a new destination for the train to travel to. In order for the train to get there, though, there has to be a switch installed on the track.
The switch is a physical anchor, such as touching the body at a specific place. Identify a place on the body that is not usually touched. As the new reaction is visualized and felt, touch that specific place on the body. This new feeling becomes associated with the action of the touch. The next time the traumatic memory is triggered, the simply touch this place, recall the feeling of the new reaction, and the train now travels the new track. In this way the switch does double duty as a decision point and as a break state.
An additional aid in this process is to identify where the track of the traumatic memory exists in the consciousness. Then visualize the installation of a switch and a new track.
In this way, the old memory is preserved but there is a new reaction available as a new destination. The more often the new pathway is traveled, the stronger it will become until it is eventually “hard-wired” in the brain. The old track always remains but the train now travels down the new track.
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