Article: The Body Keeps the Score: Memory and the evolving psychobiology of post traumatic stress


This is an excellent, straight-forward article on PSTD and the psychobiology of memory by Bessel van der Kolk, MD of Harvard Medical School.

In my recovery, I have found it necessary to look at my condition and the causes of it from many perspectives. Understanding the mechanics of PTSD, how it affects brain, mind and body, has been especially helpful.  This article helps to clarify the effects and relate them to memory.

Memory is a core challenge in Complex PTSD… how memories surface, what triggers them, the responses they cause, whether they are accessible or not, how they fit into our life’s narrative and how they affect our self image… the connection of memory to C-PTSD is unbreakable.

Recovery does give us better control over how we cope with memories and our reactions to them, but it does not (and perhaps should not) erase them.  One interesting point that I take from this article is that “emotional memories last forever”.  Accepting this in my recovery means that I can move past the longing to erase these things from my head.  Accepting it also means I must take steps to deal with the permanence of my emotional memory.

If I take the position that my emotional memories are most often situational, meaning that certain situations or environments trigger them, then I can have a plan to deal with those triggering situations.  I can avoid them or I can have a method to manage my feelings and reactions when faced with triggers.  My trigger inventory helps me focus pragmatically on the method.  It makes me feel more empowered.

One last point to take from this article, which is not explicitly stated.  I found hope in this… a practical sort of hope.  Understanding the normal, natural functions of psychobiological trauma response and how memory is involved changed my perspective.

I used to think that the loss of certain memories, the uncertainty of not being able to fully, consciously recall all of the traumas of my childhood, was a tragic theft from my mind.  Now I see it as something precious, something that biology saw fit to consider…. some things should not be fully present in our minds to torture us, but should be possible in our awareness and responses to protect us.

http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/class/psy394U/Bower/03%20Emot,%20Trauma,Mem/Body%20keeps%20the%20score.%20Kolk%20.pdf

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