Apr 15 2011

Lighting Up Memory Circuits: Exploring the Science Explaining Recovered Memories of Abuse

Recovered memories refers to the phenomenon of human beings forgetting aspects of their personal history, especially related to abuse experiences, then remembering it later, often decades later.

Psychotherapists meeting in the safety of the clinical room have often been witness to the lighting up of a person’s memory circuits when they begin to remember some earlier abuse experience.

It’s a powerful moment for both client and therapist.

A client may become reflective, tuned inward to sensations, images, emotions, then look

at the therapist with questioning eyes and begin to piece together a horrible story about themselves.

Memory fragments begin to slowly move into place confirming vague themes about mistreatment at the hands of those who should have been trusted protectors, not the perpetrators of devastating sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

The middle ground of this recovering memory process is where the client resembles an anthropologist staring and exploring different pieces of memory, images and feelings trying to make some sense of things…better understand themselves in the context of an abusive or neglectful life.

At the further end of the continuum, the client’s remembering looks like an exploding star from their inner universe of memory, images and feelings.

These first moments of remembering are sacred. People may be overwhelmed with the grief buried for years and even decades.

In my office and in psychodrama workshops, I have witnessed men and women sob and rage for long periods of time as the ice around their hearts starts to thaw and the working through of longstanding trauma begins.

Following the knowledge gained from years of research and clinical experience, therapists follow the client, rather than ask leading questions or use hypnotherapy or guided imagery as a way to unlock the door to these memories.

The remembering occurs because the client feels safe enough or another trauma creates an internal intensity opening the path to trauma memories distorted or forgotten from the past.

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