This is an interesting article from ScienceBlog, a comprehensive collection of scientific findings presented in compelling articles. Being a bit of a science junkie, I subscribe to their general posts and find something cool to read every day.
Self-Imagination Can Enhance Memory in Healthy and Memory-Impaired Individuals discusses the value of self-imagination techniques in improving memory condition. Memory issues are a complication found with Complex PTSD, so I am curious about how these methods can work in an overall therapy strategy. One question I have is about the focus of imagination. Intuition tells me that positive scenarios are therapeutically recommended and that avoidance of triggers should be a consideration.
But what about the benefits of observing negative patterns in imagined scenarios? Would that not have some benefit in therapy? For myself, I have a very active imagination. Imagination was one of my most important and effective coping skills while I was experiencing abuse as a child. My habit of day-dreaming — just escaping into my head — is long ingrained. My self-therapy, by default, includes a great deal of observation of my thoughts. At the height of my PTSD complications, plagued with flashbacks, I was simply in my head more than I was in my life… and my head wasn’t a friendly place. In my journals, I wrote often about my dreams, day dreams and flashbacks. In my depression, I laid in bed and ran over all of the old memories. Somehow, through my active work on fixing my broken head, things became more clear. I was able to pinpoint some of the most critical negative thought patterns, the Stockholm Syndrome-like fantasies, the recurring self-hatred and consuming fear of others.
This gave me something solid to work on. Even though my thoughts often triggered flashbacks and the spells of anxiety and depression that come with them, I found small breakthroughs… and deeply layered internal breaks in my self-image… all the way down to a core of self-hatred. It may sounds like that is the worst possible thing to find within oneself, but I would challenge that thinking. For me, it has been a revelation, especially now that I know what Complex PTSD is.
Because C-PTSD has its roots in abuse and neglect during critical stages of psychological development and is rooted in our most important interpersonal relationships, one of the primary complications is that of a fractured, damaged self-image. Because the norm for an abused, neglected child creates and reinforces a pattern of non-acceptance, non-care, punishment and exploitation, the self-image of that person is damaged. I didn’t realize how deeply this damage went in my own psyche for a very long time. I failed to see that part of myself, even though so much of my thinking was actually based on a concept of self-hatred.
It was through conscious observation of my imagination that I discovered, bit by bit — much as one would discover the nuances of any chronic illness — that my self-image was riddled with ‘disease’. There were many cancers of self-perception that needed to be discovered and healed. I take the position that discovery is a vital part of healing. But healing C-PTSD must be founded in caring, not in excision. Thoughts cannot be cut out, nor can memories be cut out without complications.
Finding my core issues and imagining the caring for them, the healing of them, the resolution of each and every part of my self-image is crucial. I cannot sit and wallow in the analysis of the bad. I must pursue healing.
I am driven by something that I have found to be even stronger and deeper than self-hatred… self-preservation. That will to live and to live well is in me. My free wandering of thoughts often leads me into a respectful, awed recognition of this. Beyond the pain, the road blocks, and regressions, there is a part of me that has always and will always dream about happy places and peaceful times. After all, that is where my head went to save me as a child. It does that still.