Updated on January 8, 2018 Bill Tollefson moreMy passion is to inspire and coach people to achieve what they want to get out of life. A fact is a fact. Life experiences are a fact. A memory is the residual of a life experience recorded in the brain. A memory is a fact. A memory is a mental video of our experiences, our personal history. Human memory is a complicated subject. Many of us are not aware of the impact and influence recorded memories have on our lives. Every moment and experience of ourselves and our reactions to life are recorded in our brain. We are not aware of a number of memories we store and how they affect our lives. How we think, feel, behave and react toward ourselves, others and the world are influenced 80% directly by what is stored or embedded in our subconscious mind. We are not always aware of our enjoyable, happy or successful memories but on the other hand, we are ever aware of our painful and negative memories. Memories only have power over you that you give them. The human brain is a wondrous and complex organ.
The brain regulates the functioning of all organs, bodily functions, balance and movement of the body, as well as all processes of the mind (thinking, emotions, and behaviors), and spiritual elements of self. It is also responsible for the memory functions such as recording, storage, and replaying of life experiences. How does the human brain regulate all these functions? Well, the brain achieves this through “compartmentalization and order”. Without its ability to operate through compartmentalization and order the brain would not be able to accomplish what it does for the human body. Neurological research has shown that the brain processes traumatic memory differently than non-traumatic memory. The human brain’s job with non-traumatic memory is to record life events, then process, integrate, order and store. With traumatic memory, the brain’s job is to perceive danger before it becomes available to the conscious mind. In order to prevent overwhelming emotions and realize what is happening, the brain instinctively and instantly re-routes the recording to a different area of the brain.
The brain perceives that the content and emotional charge would be too much to handle at that time and could hamper survival. So the brain the recording of the painful situation is stored in a dissociative compartment that is unreachable to the conscious mind. The recording sits in a dissociative storage compartment for processing and storage into long-term memory bank at a future time. Unfortunately, a current trigger can cause a portion of the record memory to break off and surface into the conscious mind causing a “re-experiencing” of the event. The replay seemly unconnected portion of a memory is called a flashback. The sudden surfacing of a flashback will cause the human to resist and suppress the flashback back into the dissociative compartment whatever means possible. Addition to a substance thought, behavior or emotion addiction, survivors use denial and ignoring to suppress flashbacks which in themselves will present greater long-term problems.
This New York Policewoman was one of the first responders who arrived at the World Trade Center on 9/11. She arrived on site after the collapse of the first tower. The events she witnessed were horrifying and overwhelming. Upon the collapse of the second tower, she was covered in white soot. Not long after the tragedy of 9/11 due to what she had witnessed and experienced, she became disabled, forgetful and unable to fulfill her duties as a police officer. As a result, she was unable to perform her duties and resigned from the New York Police Department. To avoid being triggered by the recollections locked in her brain from that day, she moved to Florida. For seven years she became more and more dysfunctional and unable to work or at times even leave her house. She became increasingly powerless and afraid day by day. Every time she ventured out of her house and heard or saw a police car, heard a siren, a fire truck or ambulance come up behind her she would have to pull off the road and become frozen.
A flashback from that horrible day would be triggered and the sights, sounds, and smells would fill her head. Each time she would have such a triggering event, she would experience tachycardia, rapid respiration, sweating and haunting images of what she saw and felt on 9/11 experience. Once the flashback subsided she had to call her husband to pick her up because she was unable to drive home. These events were so regular she stopped leaving her house to stop the possibility of re-occurrence. Each time it occurred she lost her personal power and confidence. Each time the flashbacks gain in intensity and strength. The content of her flashbacks, the overwhelming images, sights, and smells haunted her. She would have visions of her standing in the street being covered by soot, bodies everywhere and watching the second World Trade Center tower collapsing. She was totally disabled due to the fear of being triggered again.