Recovering Memories

May 30th, 2012

Memories are a way of checking in with the script playing in your life. Be inspired by happy memories and work at healing difficult memories.  Focus on gratitude to harness positive memories and build courage to face traumatic memories.

Oscar Wilde said, “Memory is the diary we all carry about with us.” Short term memory is like post it notes before thoughts are put into the diary. Short term memory holds 4 or 5 things and only for 10 to 20 seconds. From there memory either gets written in ink in the long term diary, which is large beyond comprehension, or held in the mysterious vault called the subconscious mind. From there, memory is as much of a mystery as dreams. It’s part of the mystery of who you are.

Philip Roth wrote,

Each of us remembers and forgets in a pattern whose labyrinthing windings are an identification mark no less distinctive than a fingerprint.

Memory’s mysteries remind us that there is always more to come and more to uncover. Déjà vu, recovered memories and extraordinary knowledge connect you with hidden powers. You have limitless capacity; capacity to heal, to grow, to learn, to relearn, to know and to thrive.

Emotional mastery involves a process of mindfully engaging memory, digging for new memory and integrating memory into a meaningful current perspective. Sometimes this is a straightforward process, like the smell of the beach that takes you back to awesome, childhood vacations.

Other times it can be a traumatic process.

There is a scene in the new movie A Dangerous Method, about the relationship between Freud and Jung. A woman, Sabina Spielrein, is receiving therapy in the customary position in front of the therapist Jung. They have this conversation:

Carl Jung: Have you any idea what brought on these attacks you suffer from?
[Sabina starts having spasms]
Sabina Spielrein: Humi…humiliation…any…any kind of humiliation. I can’t bare to see it! It…it makes me feel nauseated. I start pouring with sweat, cold sweat.
[Sabina has another spasm]
Sabina Spielrein: My father lost his temper all the time. He was always…he was always angry.
[she suddenly stops talking]
Carl Jung: When you stopped talking just now, did a thought come into your head?
Sabina Spielrein: I don’t know!
Carl Jung: Or an image, perhaps? Was it an image?
Sabina Spielrein: Yes! Yes!
Carl Jung: What was the image?
Sabina Spielrein: It was…a hand! My…my father’s hand.
Carl Jung: Why do you think you saw that?
Sabina Spielrein: Whenever he…after, whenever he…hit us, afterwards we had to…we had to kiss his hand.

Carl Jung described the personal unconscious as “lost memories, painful ideas that are repressed, subliminal perceptions, . . . and contents that are not yet ripe for consciousness”.  It’s all stored somewhere in the brain. It may feel safer locked away, but at the right time you can thrive as a person if you allow lost memories to resurface.

Recovering memories is a two part process; recovering and then re-covering them with new meaning, retrieving them and then reweaving them into who you are now, or in some cases, remembering them and then forgetting them because they no longer have a hold over you.

Beyond positive and negative memories, you also have a memory of who you are at your essence, an essence that the anxieties and traumas of life have partially robbed from your conscious mind. Explore your memories to recover some of the power of your full humanity. Once you recover this essence, you will feel like a new person with a wide array of emotions, thoughts and memories, none of which define you but all of which are part of your evolving humanity. There is always more to come, more to learn and more to REMEMBER. Keep going. There are two small words in the middle of remember; ME and BE. There is more being to be, and more YOU to become.

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  1. […] do you explain selective and recovered memories? Why this memory and why now? What is it trying to tell me? What am I hiding from myself and […]

  2. Cindy Anderson says:

    Just had time to read this today.  After our conversation last night you know how significant this post is to my journey.  Thanks for your wisdom!  So often it feels as if you have tapped into my musings.  

  3. If something happens to us which leads us to think negatively about ourselves and we cope by repressing the memory in such a way that we cannot think straight, but have to detour our thinking around what we dare not call to mind, then this can have a major detrimental impact on our ability to live our lives freely and creatively, and thus remembering that thing and realising that it doesn’t actually mean we are a “bad person”, and thus freeing up our ability to think straight, without the trauma related mental blocks, which Freud described so well, is probably a good idea.

    But, at the same time, the past cannot be changed and the real issue is whether we accept ourselves totally in the present. If we are able to do that then the past doesn’t really matter that much.

    Emotional trauma is not so much a matter of what has happened to us as what we think about it. Many individuals go through frightening or painful experiences, but as soon as they are over they are thinking about something else. Think of a woman having a baby. It’s painful and potentially frightening, but once she holds the baby in her arms she is not troubled by the memory of the pain and anxiety. Yet, in the example you give from the movie, Sabina Spielrein carries a long standing trauma from being hit by her father and made to kiss his hand. Such trauma is not inherent in this physical experience. Many individuals even get a sexual kick out of being dominated and spanked or whipped. What makes it traumatic is what it leaves her thinking about herself. I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I don’t know what that is. But the thinking related to trauma tends to go : “If only I hadn’t…”, “Maybe it was my fault…”, “It made me feel something I should be ashamed of…”, “Why don’t I ever stand up for myself?” or whatever.

    Working our way back through memories is one way to go. The long way. But it may not be necessary if we can short circuit the arguments of self-justification which tend to be the substance of trauma and depression by asking ourselves, “Even if I were worthless, so what?” The reason people have such magical perceptions very often in near death experiences is because, when faced with imminent death, they give up the inner dialogue of self-justification and realise what a wonderful place the world is when one experiences nakedly in the moment.

  4. ian says:

    Thanks Cindy, im sure we are on parallel journeys in many ways. I learnt a lot from our conversation too.

    Aussie Scribbler, I need to read your comment again. I think I agree with what you are saying but it sounds a bit like you are dismissing the past too quickly. Some of the time, what you describe is possible. Most of the time, its more like the bear hunt- you can’t go over or around memories. You have to go through them. And this can be hard.
    Forgive me if Im missing your point.

  5. ian : If the negative feelings about ourselves that are associated with a memory are what makes that memory troublesome, then learning to accept ourselves unconditionally and recognising that all thoughts and feelings which we may have will lead us to towards wholeness if we don’t try to censor or repress them can mean that the barrier to remembering will be removed and the memories will come back of their own accord. Someone whose thinking has helped me a great deal is the theatrical improvisation teacher Keith Johnstone in his book Impro : Improvisation and the Theatre. Although ostensibly about theatrical improvisation he talks about ways to open the mind to creativity. During group improvisations dark subject matter often comes naturally to the surface followed by unexpected feelings of love and tenderness. What I’ve learned from this is that, while a person can dig around in their subconscious in therapy for years and only make slow progress, in a situation were the individual feels safe and surrenders himself or herself to spontaneous thought processes, it is possible to release the demons and rediscover the soul without a lot of the effort. It is the sense of being safe and accepted which opens the door. And another aspect of Johnstone’s approach is avoidance of analysis of the contents of an improvisation, as analysis constipates the creative process. So sometimes if we target something as a problem, such a difficult memory, and we try to ask ourselves why, we may be hindering our progress.

  6. Ian : Actually, to pick up the bear hunt analogy, what I’m suggesting is that it may not always be necessary to hunt the bears. If we leave the door to our house open and put a large jar of honey on our living room table we may be able to sit comfortably reading a good book and sipping a glass of wine and wait for the bears to come to us. :o)

  7. ian says:

    I can certainly see a place for this, and have experienced it in my life too. Thank you.

  8. Cyra says:

    I find myself wondering if my memories are true. My life until my late 20s was very painful and I don’t acknowledge many memories. What was I really like? Was anything about my parents true? I lost 1 sister when I was 15 and my other sister when I was 20. For a long time I’ve thought of them as the sisters I never knew. My parents have passed away in the last 18 months and I am realizing that I didn’t know them either. It has become the family I never knew. The outer facade of the lovely family while living in the hidden anger and abuse. Never really talking about issues or feelings. Till the very end. My last time spent with my mother, she pretended that it was just an ordinary visit. When I left, she went to bed and died 3 days later. Was it always just pretend?

  9. ian says:

    hi Cyra, my heart goes out to you. Yes, you raise an interesting question. If you arent fully present, what sort of memories are created?
    much love to you

  10. Cyra says:

    Thanks for your caring. As more truths have been revealed after the passing of my parents, I do question my memories. I am blessed with a strong sense of self which as helped me to survive. I am also blessed to have a family – although small, of which I am the matriarch, that adores me. But the pain and questioning lingers even tho I have worked so hard to come to terms with what has occurred in my life. The recent passing of my mother & Memorial Day brought a lot of issues to the forefront of my thinking. And remembering.

  11. ian says:

    im sure Cyra. I dont know you, but from what you said you seem to be doing an awesome job of living as fully as possible in difficult circumstances. You also have a great gift in your experience. It helps others. You have already helped me more than you know. You helped me to see some things in a new light about memory and presence. Thank you and many blessings to you.

  12. michael says:

    Thanks Ian.  Always so good to read what you are thinking about.
    I want to pass on info about a book I just read that you may find as fascinating as I do.  Perhaps others who read Soulseeds will as well.
    The title is: “Thought Revolution–How to Unlock Your Inner Genius”; the author is William A. Donius.
    Bill Donius is a St. Louisan who retired from business after building his bank into a huge success.  He was less successful at building relationships and sought counsel.  He was given a book to read:  “The Power of Your Other Hand” by Lucia Capacchione, PhD., ATR (Art Therapist Registered).  He used this as a tool and then wrote a book about his own experiences.
    Donius’ book is a thoughtful and well researched work that delves into the role of the left and right brain.  After showing how the left brain dominates.  He then shows how to uncover the thoughts that the right brain generates.  These are often dismissed by the left brain as it orders our thoughts, sets goals and controls language.  Once you uncover and travel the path into your right brain however you see the larger picture, tap into your intuition, spirituality and your problem solving skills. 
    I am enjoying this book very much.  I’ve already learned much about myself that I was not aware of–at least in my conscious memory.
    Hope you are well.

  13. ian says:

    thanks Michael, good tip. I will look it up.
    Be well

  14. Margaret says:

    Thank you Ian, and all who have added their experiences and how they have coped with what they have newly learned about their past and about themselves. As I work with people recovering their past, I find that the deepest feelings they are ‘hiding’ from, are intense shame, fear , worthlessness, confusion, and loss of trust in self and others. The brain is an incredible instrument, and builds a pathway around these feelings, until the time comes for each individual concerned, to be ready to deal with their ‘lost’ part. This is a mysterious and empowering experience, and for some, demands a thorough make-over, in finding their genuine ‘self’. Namste to all on this journey.

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