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Healing From Traumatic Memories

Healing From Traumatic Memories

Addiction reaches every aspect of a person’s life – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It affects family, friends, neighbors, co-workers. No one is left untouched by this disease. Vertava Health’ focus in the month of May, turns to a four-part series with an esteemed author and colleague, Dr. Jason Brooks, who will share insight on trauma and addiction. Part 1 introduces us to Grace, a wife and mother with a deeply rooted traumatic past.

Recognized as one of the most prominent emerging voices in personal and organizational transformation, Dr. Jason Brooks is also likely to be one of the most authentic, transparent and “real”. Viewed by many as the “youth pastor of personal growth and success”, his life mission of “bringing hope, healing, and inspiration to everyone he meets and leading on the journey for change, growth, and success” provides the foundation and focus where his purpose and passion are fully unleashed.

As a bestselling author, inspirational speaker, and Chief People Officer of Vertava Health, Dr. Jason brings a heart for helping others to achieve their greatest potential and  success…one step at a time.

Healing Through Trauma…One Person’s Story (Week 2)

When Grace came back to my office the next week, I could tell she was eager to get started with our conversation. So we jumped right in…

“What’s on your mind today Grace?”

“Well, that’s just it,” Grace began. There’s more coming to my mind than before and it’s freaking me out.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I knew for years and years that I had blocked out a good part of my childhood. I didn’t know why at the time, but now I know it was because of the sexual abuse. But, even after coming to terms with that reality, there’s still so much that I don’t have recollection of. My friends and family say that I’m just blocking it out and that if I would just let the memories come, I could deal with them. I just don’t know…sometimes I feel like a freak that I can’t remember literally years of my life.”

“What you’re experiencing, Grace, is something that many, many people who have been through a traumatic event face. So, if it helps at all, you’re not alone. Memories are complex and difficult to fully understand. But, let me read something to you to help you understand a little bit more about how memories act, in many ways, as a protector for you from the pain of the use. This is from The Sidran Institute which is a leader in traumatic stress education and advocacy.

‘People may use their natural ability to dissociate to avoid conscious awareness of a traumatic experience while the trauma is occurring, and for an indefinite time following it. For some people, conscious thoughts and feelings, or “memories,” about the overwhelming traumatic circumstance may emerge at a later date. This delayed retrieval of traumatic memories has been written about for nearly 100 years in clinical literature on military veterans who have survived combat.

In fact, in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a psychiatric diagnosis common among people who have survived horrific events, the defining diagnostic features are memory distortions. People with PTSD inevitably experience extremes of recall regarding traumatic circumstances: intrusive memories of the event (hypernesia) or avoidance of thoughts and feelings about the event (amnesia).

Some people say they are “haunted” by memories of traumatic experiences which intrude on and disrupt their daily lives. They often can’t get the “pictures” of the trauma out of their heads. They may have recurring nightmares, “flashbacks,” or they may even relive the trauma as if it was happening in present time.

It is also common for traumatized people to make deliberate efforts to avoid thoughts or feelings about the traumatic event and to avoid activities or situations which may remind them of the event. In some severe cases, avoidance of reminders of the trauma may cause a person to have “dissociative amnesia,” or memory blanks for important aspects of the trauma.’

Human memory is a complex operation. Although there is still much to learn about how memories work, scientists generally understand and accept that there are four stages of memory: intake, storage (encoding), rehearsal, and retrieval. Each of these processes can be influenced by many factors such as developmental stage, setting, expectation, post-event questioning, etc. Even the conditions at the time of the telling of a memory can change the form of the memory, influencing its content and belief in the truth of the memory in the future.

Most scientists also agree that there are two identified forms of memory: explicit and implicit. Explicit memory, also called declarative or narrative memory, is the ability to consciously recall facts or events. This is the form of memory used, for example, when a person recounts the events of his or her day at work or school. Implicit memory, also called procedural or sensorimotor memory, refers to behavioral knowledge of an experience without conscious recall. A person who demonstrates proficiency at reading but who cannot remember how he or she learned the skill is an example of implicit memories in the absence of explicit memories.’

“I know that’s a lot to digest,” I said. “But hopefully this give you a little insight that memory in relation to what you experienced is very deep.

“Wow.” Grace said. “I had no idea there was so much involved. I just thought I was broken because I couldn’t remember. But, then again, I don’t know if I really wanted to remember.”

“There are some steps we can take to help release your memories and make sense of them, but the process is different for everyone. It’s important to understand that your inability to recall is protecting you in some way. First, we need to get you strong and stable in yourself today. If you’re struggling with feelings, thoughts, relationships, and staying strong in your recovery today, releasing memories could actually cause more harm than good. Remember, the journey you’re on is not a short one and there’s no such thing as a quick fix.”

“That’s for sure,” Grace said.

“Once we create a solid foundation for where you are today, we can begin working on the traumatic memories. As we’re walking through this together, it’s important to remember a couple of things…

First, the difficulties you’re facing today did not come from nowhere. They have purpose. Unhealthy as they may be for you, at some point it was your way of making it through a difficult experience. Acknowledge where you are, accept the reality of what you’re going through, and assert yourself to create a better path for the future.

Next, you must trust in your own process and timing. No one, not even me, can tell you what to feel, or what to do. I can help lead, but ultimately the next steps are yours and you need to develop your own self-awareness and believe in the timing of your healing.

Last, you need someone to help you walk through this journey. Luckily, you’ve already taken care of this part by reaching out to me. While we started our work together focused on rebuilding our life as a result of the devastation of your addiction, you now see there were other issues at play and as we reveal those, deeper work will be needed. Make sense?”

“Yea, it’s just a lot to take in. Do you believe it will get better, Dr. Jason?”

“Oh, Grace…I absolutely do believe your life can be better than you ever imagined. I would not be working with you if I thought otherwise. You have been a victim of some terrible experiences, but you aren’t defined by them. You’ve coped through the years and made choices that have caused you and those love pain, but you aren’t held captive by them. Isaiah 58:12 says, ‘And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.’ I believe this truth and your life can and will be rebuilt as you trust in God and continue to take the steps to face the pain of the past in the strength and hope for the future.”

“That’s all I needed to hear. I’m ready.” Grace smiled.

Dr. Jason is an expert in leading life change. As a gifted speaker and life success coach, he is available to speak at your next conference event and would love to connect with you on social media on Facebook,Twitter or Google+. Dr. Jason can be contacted through the public relations team at Vertava Health.