I often have clients ask me the question, will I always be affected by my past traumas? The answer is yes and no.
The answer is yes because there are only a few ways to completely remove memories from the brain that I am aware of. Lobotomy. ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) possibly. And the controversial memory manipulation therapies that have been used to change memories or even implant new, false memories.
There is also research that has been done in the past and that is being done now on the drug propranolol (used to manage high blood pressure) and controlling the emotional response in trauma survivors. It does not erase memories. It changes, sometimes dramatically, the brain and body’s response to painful or scary memories. However, taking this drug every day if you do not have high blood pressure is not generally recommended. Some people do already use it for panic attack inducing situations taken before participating in those situations so that it allows them to get through them without panic.
None of these removal processes sound particularly good, which leads to the memory of trauma will always be present in the brain. However, how that memory affects us can be changed.
The answer is no in that traumatic memories can be acknowledged and confronted. They can be understood and accepted. They can be processed and minimized in their effects. Several therapies can be utilized to help trauma survivors live better. EMDR is used to reprocess the brain’s response to traumatic memories. Hypnosis has also been used to retrain the brain. CBT is used to change how people think about themselves and their experiences. And other therapies that reduce emotional response to traumatic memories are also used.
As I tell my clients, it is not the memory or the experience that continues to affect them throughout their lives, it is their emotional response to those things that drive their behaviors, choices, thoughts, beliefs, etc. The memories make them FEEL fear, sadness, anger, worthlessness, doubt, and more that then translates in a response in the brain that moves through the body and becomes manifested in actions, thoughts, beliefs.
The hardest thing for my clients to hear is that I cannot eliminate their trauma memories. That we must find a way through them. To find a way to live better with them. It is at this point that clients either decide they are willing to try to do that or they are not and they stop seeing me and keep searching for a way to remove the memories.
I wish I had a magic wand and could make all the horrible things that have happened to people disappear. But I do not. But you can find a way to live better even with the memories.
It is hard work. It is not comfortable. It is a daily process of choosing to live differently. But it is possible.
Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing creates change you do choose. ~ Michele Rosenthal