A few years ago at one of my presentation, a woman in the audience, stood up and declared that she was a victim of childhood sexual abuse. She reported that around her 28th birthday, she began to experience flashbacks of those torturing years of childhood abuse. As I listened to her story, I understood that she had been in pain for many years without any relief.
When she finished, I asked her one simple question: "Why do you think those recollections of those events have returned?" She hesitated for a few seconds, searched her thoughts and ultimately was unable to give an answer.
I had discussed this topic with so many survivors over 14 years, which had experienced the same latent reaction to childhood trauma. Roughly 76 percent of survivors of childhood abuse and trauma have re-experiencing recollections. Too many believe that a re-experiencing of memories from childhood abuse and trauma is a sign of weakness or mental illness. It is neither. In fact, it is a sign of growth and strength.
Like the woman at my presentation, survivors think that they are being punished and that there is no way out of their pain. They have attempted everything from medication to years of intense therapy to no avail or relief.
The answer has to do with the way the brain treats trauma memory differently from non-traumatic memory. Simply the brain is about order and process. Everyday non-traumatic memory is stored in an orderly fashion. Traumatic memory is stored in an unconscious compartment deep in the brain to the protection of the victim. Traumatic memory is sent to a dissociated storage area. In doing so the brain is saving the victim from conscious awareness of the horror of the event being experienced. The memory can be locked in that dissociated storage area for years.
Then due to growth and personal strength perceived in the person by the brain, the memory is unlocked and sent for processing. The returning the memory to consciousness when not solicited is termed "flashback". A flashback is when the dissociated memory quickly crosses the mental screen in the mind. This process being performed is not an attempt to present pain or hurt, but healing. The brain wants the unprocessed traumatic memory to be processed, the emotions closed and the memory can be filed in the normal way in long-term storage. Flashbacks are the brain's way of seeking order, even though does not feel that way to the recipient.
The natural response of the recipient to a flashback is to become fearful and repress (or "shut down") the recollection with whatever means possible (thought, behavior or substances). What survivors all are striving for is relief from the intrusiveness.
To gain relief requires a new mindset. According to the pilot study conducted with survivors of severe childhood abuse and trauma, there is a guided protocol which can assist the brain to achieve order with the traumatic memory. The pilot study revealed, "the purpose of the guided protocol is to give the survivor the opportunity to release the intense emotional charge, and achieve closure with the memory of the overwhelming, life-threatening event".
I told the woman "What I know for sure is that if you're looking for a way to accomplish complete amnesia from past pain and hurt, you will always be disappointed. Closure of the flashback is the best that can be achieved. In the end, you're the only person making closure with your past. There is no drug that can do it for you. So facing your painful emotions in a recollected head-on with a safe protocol can give your brain finality. There is nothing a therapist can say or do with memory that can give you what you can give to yourself. If taught the right skill, a sense of closure can be achieved safely."
If you are searching for a sense of closure from intruding recollections of abusive, traumatic life events or even combat, I encourage you to look no further than inside yourself. Understand that your brain is searching for order. Help it reach its objective by not shying away from the process. Storing of abusive or traumatic memories in an obscured location was God's gift of protection, and say "thank you" and move forward toward health. The irony of the process is that your brain brings back unfinished recollections not to hurt you but to complete what was not done at the time of the emotionally, life-threatening overwhelming life event.
You are not ready for completion until you can affirm “I will never again give up my personal authority to my past”. Only then will you be free and ready for wholeness.
Coach Bill For more information on Rapid Reduction Technique click here