Why is so hard to forget bad memories?
Can you easily recall what happened on your holidays five years ago? Memories from a long time ago are generally pretty vague, but, if you’ve had a traumatic experience you can be haunted by painful, vivid flashes of memory triggered at random times.
Intense flashbacks happen because the memory hasn’t been processed and stored by the brain in the normal way. Sometimes people are so traumatised by what's happened they have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) but we all have at least one memory that troubles us, even if it's semingly a small thing that we just can't shake off . It's been suggested that we all have around 10 to 20 memories that are responsible for most of the pain we experience. I'm sure you're all too familiar with your own personal ones......
We're haunted by these bad memories because our brain wasn't able to process what was hapening to us at the time. When something traumatic happens part of our brain shuts down and our body is flooded with hormones to get us ready to fight, flight or freeze.
The bit of the brain that goes ‘off line’ is the left frontal cortex. It’s where you asses things logically and gain perspective. Without the frontal cortex in action your brain becomes overwhelmed by all the sensory data it’s taking in but unable to process. This means that the experience is stored in the brain in a series of fragmented impressions, and because it’s an intense experience the amygdala also tags it with a high level of importance meaning that it can easily be called to mind which is why these bad memories trouble us so easily.
The amygdala, which is the body’s alarm system, records what's happened to you as a mixture of images, smells, sounds, tastes and touch as well as recording the high level of intensity of your feelings. This is why you can easily be ‘triggered’ by things you see, hear, or feel. It does this to try to protect you from ever being in the same situation again by alerting you to 'danger'. Because of this people who’ve experienced trauma can end up living in a near constant state of hypo (shut down, disassociated, numb) or hyper ( ready for flight, vigilant) arousal. It's an uncomfortable and exhausting place to be.
Talking therapies alone won’t resolve trauma as they’re engaging the frontal cortex which has little capacity to influence the deeper areas of the brain. I work using AMDR (Applied Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) which safely and gently helps the body and brain process and release the trapped trauma so you can stop you being triggered and finally relax and enjoy your life fully. I've experienced it myself and know how well it works.
If you're living with ongoing trauma please do take me up on the offer of a free, quick chat it could be the beginning of a new chapter in your life.