Since Covid and lockdown more and more people have developed the symptoms of post trauma. This can be difficult and debilitating. However the mechanism that leads to our repression of difficult experiences is our memory. The issue with post traumatic stress disorder is not memory it is recall.
It is important to realise that our systems are designed to learn and we learn by remembering. It is the learning that keeps us safe. Throughout evolution we have kept ourselves safe by remembering what is dangerous and where that danger is. This might be plants that are poisonous, other human beings or animals that are a threat and would damage us.
When we are threatened we activate our fight or flight response. This gives the chemistry to either defend ourselves or to run away. The fear or threat that we experience may be directly to us or we may witness something happening to another person. Either way the effect is the same.
Following an incident we have POST TRAUMA STRESS (PTS). This normally last for about four to six weeks as it is gradually processed by our mind. At some point we will all have itIf the stress persists longer than six weeks we are considered to have a DISORDER or PTSD. This will require medication and/or therapy.
The disorder is described as complex, CPTSD, when the trauma is repeated over and over again. This can be common in army and police personnel and most triple nine workers and in people suffering ongoing abuse.
In PTSD experience that is overwhelming and too difficult to deal with is repressed. This means that in is encoded into memory. Rather like a box of stuff being put in the back of a cupboard and forgotten about. The mechanism that often leads to the repression is dream sleep. Often after an assault someone will sleep for a short period of time. Dream Sleep or rapid eye movement (REM) encodes the images into memory. Often the person will then get up and carry on with their life as though nothing has happened.
Repression can and be of events that are either imagined or real.
PTSD to a REAL situation leads to depression and flashbacks to the remembered event that re-enacts all the original thoughts and feelings.
Imagined Trauma is a FLASH-FORWARD of Fear/Anxiety to something that may never happen. This is a Pre Trauma Stress Disorder. It can happen when we are told that someone close to us is dying or if we are given a potentially life threatening diagnosis such as cancer. We can then use our imagination the Flash – Forward creating a daydream that uses the same REM as in Post Trauma to create a box images and feeling in the back of our mind. This can also be the basis of what is described as ‘False Memory Syndrome’.
In both pre and post trauma the brain and the mind see only the dream images and their associated chemical and emotional responses and can cannot tell which is real. However with therapy we can unpack the boxes and release any negative emotions and memories and eliminate their effects.
Repressions, either pre or post trauma, should not be confused with suppression which is the conscious withholding of feelings. Let’s say there is someone in your workplace that you don’t like and if the situation was different you would tell them exactly what you think of them. However, you suppress those negative feelings and smile and say “Hello, how are you?” This can lead to feeling of frustration, agitation, irritation, anger and so on that are all going on, suppressed, behind your apparent smile.
Repression is the unconscious withholding of feelings. That can lead to serious symptoms of depressions, fear, anxiety and many mental health issues that often require medication, therapy and even hospitalisation. In all cases of Pre Trauma, Post Trauma or suppression the feeling associated with the event or person can be triggered by smells, tastes, colours, sounds, music, television or films, books or stories or another person sharing their issues that resonate with your own.
When we are diagnosed with a post or pre trauma issues we may need…
Therapy including Psychotherapy, Counselling, CBT and other talking therapies
Mindfulness – both life style and Meditation is shown to be very effective
EMDR – EYE MOVEMENT replicates the REM allowing the release of the initial repression
EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique – Tapping also can reactivate the REM
Rewinding – As a relaxation visualisation Hypnotherapy activates REM
The Beach – Deep Relaxation and sleep Therapy activates REM
Medication – Include Antidepressants – Beta-blockers that can work alongside other therapies
AVOID SELF MEDICATION – Drugs, Alcohol, Over working, Isolation
Be happy and if you identify with post trauma or pre trauma suppression or repression talk to some and do something about it.