It happened to you a long time ago, and you haven’t thought about it for years. You get up every morning and live your life like most people. But lately, it’s been forcing its way back into your thoughts. You’ve started reliving it in dreams, and the strangest things will trigger your memories. The other day, you were at the grocery store when someone wearing a blue jacket walked by, and suddenly you could smell the room where it happened. You just want to push it behind you and move on, but you can’t seem to do that.
Memories are tricky things. As we grow older, we forget many of the things we’ve done or that have happened to us. Actually, they slip deeper into our long-term memory, ready to resurface when we hear an old song on the radio or when an old classmate’s name pops up as a Facebook friend request. Much of the time, those memories trigger warm, happy feelings of moments we enjoyed.
Then there are those memories that aren’t quite so happy. Bad things happened long ago, and we think we pushed them aside for good. But something happens, and they resurface. Suddenly, we don’t feel so confident anymore. Depression starts to creep in, and anxiety interferes with our daily activities. Maybe we start crying for no apparent reason, or we get angry without notice.
That’s not unusual for people who have been victims of trauma. The memories of traumatic events can resurface in many ways, and even if you’re successful at blocking them out once again, they’ll probably be back. Fortunately, psychologists are learning more about how those memories work and helping people relieve the distress they bring.
One promising approach is called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy. It gives the mind a way to heal from psychological trauma, just as our bodies can recover from physical injuries. A therapist can use EMDR to help someone deal with traumatic memories that they haven’t processed and replace negative feelings with more constructive emotions. The science behind the approach is complicated, but it uses what doctors have learned about the role of rapid eye movements (REM) in sleep. As a therapist manages a patient’s eye movements, he or she guides the patient through the memories and replaces the negative associations with positive ones. For example, someone who was sexually abused as a child can move from thinking of herself as a bad child who deserved to be abused to an adult who is worthy of real love. Clinical studies indicate that EMDR produces lasting results in less time than many other approaches.
If memories of the past are interfering with your ability to enjoy life and relationships, why not sit down with one of our professional counselors? We’ll be happy to discuss your situation and identify the approach that will help you make the most of every day. Contact us today.
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