Sigmund Freud is attributed with stating that well over a hundred years ago. Our memories of the past are wide and diverse, the proverbial “another country”. Some are beautiful places we like to visit and rest and rejuvenate ourselves in, moments of happiness, pride, joy. Others are darker, shabbier places that we go with with shame, regret, sadness or loneliness.
for some of us there are worse places in our mind…places of raw terror. Memories so painful that even a glimpse of them over the horizon is enough to have us trembling.
Often, in our present we stumble across a landscape that is familiar and, unconsciously, we believe that we know know where we are going….that we have been there before and it is familiar. I struck this with a client recently. He realised that in some of his interactions with his wife, he felt trapped and powerless. I asked him how old he felt when he was in these difficult times and he reported feeling like a teenager. When we explored these a bit deeper he realised that they resembled a difficult time of his childhood when his mother was “dumping” on him and he felt trapped and powerless. He experienced a “resonance”…echos of a difficult emotional time. He was drawn back to being a powerless teenager.
There is a very helpful book titled, “The body keeps the score” by Bessel van der Kolk. This book dives into the somatic experience of things. Somatics are the sensations we feel, as distinct from emotions. Often when we are triggered by something happening now, into a painful or traumatic memory, our body reacts and floods us with adrenaline and cortisol and we feel anxious….and we react out of that anxiety, shutting down, flaring up or running from the situation. Sometimes the way out fo this triggering is simply to notice and acknowledge that somatic reaction, and put it in the past where it belongs…however, “simply” can take a bit of training and work.