Memory Shift

Who would you be without your memories? What would happen if you experienced life fresh at each moment without reference to what you recall from the past?

It is said that we don’t remember an event so much as we remember our last recollection of it. If our memory is traumatic it may be accompanied by the body memory of the event. So when we think of a bad event that happened to us, we may re-experience the physical state that went with it, such as the muscle tension or difficulty breathing that we experienced at the time of the trauma.

When we replay an event, our mind is getting us ready for a future similar event. It’s saying, “Here we go again. Get ready.” It may say, “Hold your breath. Tense your muscles. Lose consciousness.” It may run the body’s the fight or flight program or the freeze program.  Unfortunately, such a response can be highly aversive and we may become phobic about it. We won’t want to experience the memory and the sensations that go with it. We are afraid of them, and as a result they never get a chance to resolve.

That may be why talking with a supportive person about past trauma can be healing. We get a chance to recall the memory and lay down a new memory in a new context, which is “I am safe. I am being heard. I’m telling my story and I’m OK.”

What we know about ourselves is what we remember. Our egos are compiled of ideas with memories as the glue that holds them together. If I am confident, it is because I remember succeeding in a situation similar to what I anticipate facing in the future. If I’m not confident, I project failure based on previous experience of failing or previous thinking about failing.

Our unresolved past hurts clutter up our mind and interfere with our ability to respond to new experiences naturally. To the extent that we can reconcile our past, we can live life freshly, spontaneously.

Borrowing from the Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono we can approach our fears and hurtful memories with a simple strategy that shifts our mind out of anger and fear into love, reconciliation and gratitude, none of which are compatible with the brain states of fear and anger.

When caught in unpleasant emotion/memory, soothe the roughness by repeating with feeling these simple thoughts:

I love you.

I'm sorry.

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

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© 2009-2011 Tom Barrett