When The Past Lives On
IMPLICIT MEMORY: THE KEY TO OUR INTERNAL EXPERIENCE
Anxiety, depression and mental distress are echoes of our history - they are patterned emotional responses and neurological frameworks stemming from past experiences that are being replayed in the present.
Our brains run largely on implicit memory - conditioned, unconscious software packages of information that direct our decisions and allow us to act on instinct. This frees up our conscious activity for other things and is an incredible energy saver - imagine if you had to consciously think about stringing together the letters in front of you into words and sentences, rather than having them unconsciously organized into meaningful thoughts for you. We would struggle to function without implicit memory.
But, as with everything, it comes with a cost.
Some software packets are adaptive - learning that when I put my hand on the stove, it hurts, gives rise to the implicit memory "be cautious of hot surfaces." Some are less adaptive - learning that when I reach for help, I am rebuffed or told to grow up, may give rise to the implicit memory "don't be vulnerable."
In the same way that endeavours like reading, riding a bike, and driving a car, which once involved conscious concentration, became unconscious, automatic processes, so too do our mental and emotional processes.
The ideas we learn and the beliefs we internalize lay the ground work of our emotional operating systems, shaping the psychological filter through which we see and interact with the world.
THEY BECOME THE UNCONSCIOUS GHOST WRITERS OF OUR INTERNAL EXPERIENCE.
When Talking Isn't Enough
BECAUSE CHANGING THE NARRATIVE REQUIRES MORE THAN JUST A GOOD COPYWRITER
Relational psychotherapy is rooted in psychodynamics, attachment theory, object-relations theory and the principles of human development. Understanding that our behavioural patterns, personality, and identity are developed and shaped by early experiences, relational psychotherapy brings to light the implicit memories and unconscious processes from the past that are influencing the present.
Relational psychotherapy, being an insight-oriented approach, is of tremendous use in deepening self awareness, uncovering the unconscious roots of our mental and emotional distress, and alleviating self conscious emotions such as shame and self blame. But while insight is a key first step, true transformation comes not just from being aware of how the past has influenced the present, but from processing through the mental, emotional and neurological remnants of those past experiences.
When we are faced with overwhelming emotional distress or trauma, our brain's ability to properly make sense of our experience is greatly diminished. This leaves the experience unprocessed and emotionally loaded.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a technique that promotes information processing in the brain. When used during therapeutic reprocessing of a distressing experience, EMDR helps to integrate previously unprocessed information and resolve left-over emotional remnants.
Somatic & Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
Somatic psychotherapy is a nervous-system based approach rooted in the understanding that the body stores information in many ways, including non-linguistic forms. Where as cognitive and analytical psychotherapy approaches often reveal the narrative that our analytical mind has created, somatic techniques engage and work with felt-sense, directly accessing raw, unadulterated experience.
Drawing on the work of Peter Levine, the Hakomi Method, and sensorimotor psychotherapy, I utilize somatic techniques to help clients not just make sense of their experience on a cognitive level, but to reprocess it on an emotional and neurological level.
Dissociation is an extreme form of compartmentalization that often occurs as a result of intense emotional experiences and trauma. Such experiences can overwhelm our ability to process and integrate them, leaving us flooded with emotion. Dissociation helps us cope with the mental and emotional distress of unintegrated experiences by creating psychological distance between us and the overwhelming material.
While dissociation helps us cope with difficult experiences, it also inhibits our ability to truly move past them. When the dissociative barriers that hinder treatment are dissolved, emotional processing is expedited and transformation is possible.