Most of us have had feelings of nostalgia once in a while. We might see yellow school buses go by and think of our children long ago getting on the bus for the first time. Maybe it is when the weather changes, we remember our college days or hear an old song that reminds of times past. Sometimes we can’t remember exactly in detail the event, but our body and brain reminds us of that particular time in our lives.
When people experience a trauma, the body and brain also remember. People recovering from traumas can witness in themselves very intense feelings or ”memories” of the situation that occurred (Fisher, 2013). This onset is often triggered by any sensory experience: sight, smell, auditory, and so on.
What outsiders may not realize is that these emotions can be very scary and overwhelming. Everyone has heard that saying ”it is like riding a bike ’ you will remember what to do”. Well’this is the way the body is reminding the survivor — but it is the type of muscle memory one must learn to cope successfully with.
Some examples of experiences are: feelings of panic, apprehension, shame, depression, numbness, sense of abandonment, impulses to run or leave, self mutilation, shakiness, rapid heartbeat, and suicidal ideations. All of these reactions or feelings is the body’s way of remembering what happened. Very often, clients will say to me ’ ”I don’t really remember all the details”, ”there are lapses in my memory from growing up”. Yet, the body is recalling ’ communicating in feelings and behaviors.
Having this cognitive understanding, allows clients to begin strengthening their ability to tolerate this hyper or hypo arousal state that is so very uncomfortable (Fisher, 2013). They can then remind themselves they are in the present day. This helps build new muscle memory that the feelings – aka- the memories, can be tolerated with new coping skills. The goal is to change the default setting — to tolerance ’and hopefulness.