When the past is happening now
by Fe Robinson
When something upsetting or traumatic has happened, your system can become overwhelmed. Unable to make sense of it, the memory sometimes does not recede into the mists of time as other memories do, but may stay very much with you. This can be in the form of ruminations, where you play over what happened again and again and again, or as flashbacks of images, body sensations, strong emotions, or all of the above.
When this happens, the well meaning advice to put the past behind you and move on is meaningless. If it were as simple as that, in all probability you would have done it some time ago.
Treatments like Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) can be very helpful in resolving both trauma memories and limiting emotional patterns. If you feel you need treatment then do get in touch or find a practitioner near to you. However, there are things you can do for yourself to assist the reduction of symptoms.
Memories are a network, made up of sounds, pictures, smells, tastes, feelings and thoughts. They are held unconsciously, and that means they are not solely in the head, but that they are distributed through our body. Our body really does remember.
Here are some tips for ways to begin to change your experience in the moment:
- Working with your body, grounding yourself, stretching or using gentle movement can be very helpful when you want to shift your relationship with what has happened.
- Gently bringing your awareness to your five senses and what is happening right now can also be useful, helping your mind-body system to reorientate into the present moment and let the past be less in focus.
- Finally, soothing yourself when you find yourself triggered by a memory or association, literally reassuring yourself, holding yourself, and creating a sense of comfort and safety can be very useful.
Trauma can be very difficult to live with, and help is at hand. In the meantime, experiment and find out what works for you in terms of self-help, you may be surprised how much you can affect with application and love.
For support in overcoming symptoms relating to the past, get in touch.