Warning: This article is for informational purposes only and is not to be interpreted as self-help advice. Do not attempt to address trauma on your own. You should seek healing with the help of a qualified practitioner.
Many times we like to remember things as vividly as possible.
If your favorite memory is camping with your family when you were twelve, you’re going to want to remember every single aspect of that experience.
The smell of campfire in the air, and eggs and bacon at breakfast. The warmth of the fire on your skin against the cool outside temperatures in the evening. The sound of birds chirping as you opened your eyes first thing in the morning.
In NLP, this is known as being in an associated state. You’re remembering events through your own eyes, as if you’re there again, immersed in the scene and reliving the event.
Remembering positive events in this manner is a great way to recapture and relive positive feelings in the here and now.
Sometimes remembering in an associated way is not a good thing.
According to an article titled Why We Remember Traumatic Events Better published by Live Science:
In a study of rats, emotionally arousing events triggered activity in the amygdala, an almond-shaped part of the brain known to be involved in emotional learning and memory. The interaction then triggers production of a protein called Arc in neurons in the hippocampus, a brain region involved in processing long-term memory.
It seems the brain may be wired to remember trauma, which would make sense from a self-protective point of view. If you didn’t remember the bad things that happen, how would you know what to avoid in the future?
The problem is, when you’re continually traumatized emotionally by bad memories, it makes life very difficult on far too many levels.
Is it possible to both remember what happened in the past for self-protecting purposes, avoid similar situations in the future, and NOT be re-traumatized on a regular basis?
Remember, if you experience something traumatic, and vividly remember that experience in an associated state, it’s going to rekindle the painful feelings appropriately associated with the negative event.
What’s the solution?
A way to ‘disassociate’ yourself when in this type of situation is to change how you’re recalling the traumatic memory.
Rather than seeing it through your own eyes, and recalling the sounds and smells, try imagining it as if you’re watching yourself in a black and white movie. Perhaps this is even a silent movie, and you’re just an observer who is watching the actors play out a scene. Get creative in how to detach yourself from the events that play out.
By focusing on the “how” of the memory, rather than the “why”, we are getting to the source of the problem, which is the fact that your brain is programmed to recall it in a painful way. We’re simply flipping the switch.
This is also a healthy preventive approach to suppressing this memory in an unhealthy and potentially detrimental way (such a drinking or drugs), which many people do because they don’t know how to deal with the memory’s presence in their daily lives.