Why traumatic memories are different

Traumatic memories are different from “bad memories.” Traumatic memories are those memories which the brain recognized as intolerable and inescapable. When we cannot live with a memory most of us are capable of dissociating. That is, the terrible event is not something we remember. This is a survival mechanism. Our brains don’t store what is too terrible to remember.

Soldiers experience this when they have witnessed what’s too horrible to endure. Survivors of torture and imprisonment in repressive regimes describe “forgetting” the terror they experienced until later. Children who are being abused by the adults who should be protecting them have to dissociate the memories in order to survive the betrayal.

Not everyone is capable of dissociating. My hunch is that children who are not able to dissociate and who live with unbearable suffering are those children who suicide or die in “accidents.”

The point is that the brain doesn’t store traumatic memory the way it stores other memories. It takes a little effort to learn about how the brain deals with events that are too awful to store and which we cannot escape.

You can go online to learn about traumatic memories if you don’t have that knowledge now. If you choose not to learn, then please do not say, “But how can you forget something so awful? I remember everything….” That’s really hurtful and insensitive to those of us who have lived with dissociation. If you don’t make the effort to understand, please don’t pretend you have a valid opinion.

One comment

  1. Analiza says:

    Dear, sweet Caroline. I’m in tears over your pain. Losing your mom twice yes, I can see how there are two deaths, both elluqay painful. My heart broke in half as I read about your TJ. As a mom, I can’t imagine the anguish and questions you must carry with you everywhere you go. What a terrible and ongoing torment. I pray that God’s presence washes over you continually as you pray for the return of your son. I join you in prayer asking the Lord to watch over TJ and bring people into his life to intervene and help him. Nothing is too big for God. Not medical issues, mental issues, emotional issues, past or present can ever hold a candle to the power of God’s hand. I pray for support for you, tender warrior. I wish I could come over and give you a big hug. I’m here if you want to call me anytime. This is not for you to carry alone. Never give up I can see his return to you. Thank you for sharing your heart with me. I will continue to hold you up.

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