The difference between processing memories and hiding them away?

Charbella

MyPTSD Pro
How can I tell the difference between processing memories and hiding them away? 20 years ago I know I hid them away. I know I put them in a box and attempted to send them to a black hole somewhere. Obviously that didn’t work and it’s not like I thought it did…I think. I had memories come up but for the most part it was like a book opened but once I saw what was on the page I quickly shut it, it didn’t immediately go away but the images didn’t come with it. The occasional flashback would happen but again it never ran beginning to end before I was able to pull my mind away from it. Then J died and I realized that I was merely building a dam, and I was a mighty beaver because it pretty much held, then a flood happened and I decided therapy or death.

so how do I now know the difference between memories being processed in some way versus my auto pilot reaction to shut it away? Am I actually doing the work or am I resorting to old habits? I’m truly not sure, but todays EMDR session scared me a bit, it was too easy. I know, how twisted is my brain to think that progress can only come in the form of a hard won, painful battle.

Its not just today either. For awhile now my EMDR sessions have been less in living color. Not that I’d say they’ve been easy…they haven’t. But the first 10 times or so it was as close to a flashback as possible, and for those who don’t know you play the memory a few times so it was overwhelming to say the least to have one, then willingly go back to the memory.

Now the intensity is determined by how adverse I am to her reactions to him, rather than the event itself. So I question is this progress or my brains way of attempting to close the doors? How do I know?
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
I know, how twisted is my brain to think that progress can only come in the form of a hard won, painful battle.

my breakthroughs seem to come so suddenly that it is all too easy for me to minimize the work that paved the way for that breakthrough. i like a rock breaking analogy that describes a sculptor chipping away at a piece of marble that it seems that there is no progress until, without warning, the rock breaks. was it the grand finale which worked the surprise or all the hammer hits which loosened the rock? another way i like to put it is that it is not the letting go that hurts. the painful part is holding on.

but to answer your question. . .

i see the diff in my willingness to sit with the memory. if i can embrace the memory i am processing. if i push the memory away, i am repressing.
 

Charbella

MyPTSD Pro
i see the diff in my willingness to sit with the memory. if i can embrace the memory i am processing. if i push the memory away, i am repressing.
I feel willing to sit with the memory if I don’t have to sit with the minutiae of the details. For instance the current memory has me on a floor that is dirty. I can remember focusing on the details of that grit size and shape. I don’t mind remembering that but I do mind feeling that. So I would say I was braced anticipating feeling it and then it didn’t happen. Product of pushing it away or my brains protection mode or just being able to start processing the memory without that?

One more piece of information that may or may not be noteworthy. My T suggested when I write out memories that I do some at home EMDR work with it. Since obviously you need your hands and your eyes to write I chose bilateral tones. So all the most recent memories were written about using that technique. The track last 15 minutes which means I know a page or two takes 45-60 minutes. Not because I am a slow writer but because I get lost in it sometimes. T figures that may be part of why the memories aren’t as flashbacky.

Thanks for the feedback @arfie. I need to not get so stuck in my head.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
I often wonder this as I am also super excellent at denial and blocking out reality and feelings.
For me it's usually the question:
What's the difference between being emotionally numb and being at peace?
Because I experience both as being able to function in my life and 'stable'.
Not sure I actually have the answer.
But it usually comes after the event. A realisation that I am feeling things, so can't be numb, so must be at peace with it? And then not really understanding how I got to that peaceful state with it. Which I then think brings in what @arfie was saying about minimising the work we do in therapy and it having effect.
And I also think it's about younger part's being surprised that it can be ok. That the fear of it all, of thinking about and processing it, isn't as fear inducing as we anticipated?
Which links in with what you say here ....

So I would say I was braced anticipating feeling it and then it didn’t happen.

Product of pushing it away or my brains protection mode or just being able to start processing the memory without that?
Are you feeling feelings , of any sort, when thinking about this? Like sadness, or concern, or whatever? Maybe you're not feeling the anticipated feeling but you're feeling something?
Which, in my view uneducated opinion, means it's processing and not blocking?
You're just not feeling it as traumatic feelings from then but as an adult now processing it?

The fact you're sitting with that memory and thinking about the floor etc, shows you're processing that memory. You're not hiding from it. You're managing to stay with that memory and not be overwhelmed by it.
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
I feel willing to sit with the memory if I don’t have to sit with the minutiae of the details. For instance the current memory has me on a floor that is dirty. I can remember focusing on the details of that grit size and shape. I don’t mind remembering that but I do mind feeling that.

allowing myself to feel those repressed emotions might be the heart and soul of the diffs. my life as a child prostitute was more than a statistic to be recited, as needed for official purposes. the emotions attached live quite far beyond words and demographic recitals.
 

Charbella

MyPTSD Pro
@arfie I don’t mean feel as in emotion I mean feel as in sensory input. As if it were happening here right now, not then 30 years ago. When I first started working with the trauma there were times that I did feel his hands moving all over me now even though I could not see him the memory of it was so strong as to evoke the actual sensation. I worry that it not happening is a bad thing. Even though my fear that it will is next level. That’s what I mean by what I was bracing for.
 

Charbella

MyPTSD Pro
What's the difference between being emotionally numb and being at peace?
For me I’m not out of the emotionally numb space. I’m getting a bit better in that I can identify on a basic level what I was feeling and on some occasions what I am currently feeling but it’s still a very cerebral experience. My feelings have also been boxed away and my natural instinct is to keep shutting them out. I have to be actively engaged to even try to touch them and even then they seem to pull away.

I couldn’t tell you what peace looks like or feels like to me for all the money in the world. I can tell you things that bring me a kernel of peace but I can’t connect with that feeling emotionally.
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
I don’t mean feel as in emotion I mean feel as in sensory input. As if it were happening here right now, not then 30 years ago.

every case is unique, but in my own case, the repressed emotions and full sensory flashbacks (feeling like it were happening right here now, not then 30 years ago) were deeply connected. after i processed the repressed emotions, the flashback psychosis lost its grips on my consciousness. i regained my capacity to be reminded without sliding down that proverbial rabbit hole.

but that is me and and every case is unique. . .

gentle support while you sort your own case.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
When I first started working with the trauma there were times that I did feel his hands moving all over me now even though I could not see him the memory of it was so strong as to evoke the actual sensation.
this would be body memories/flashbacks. i would say this is outside the 'window of tolerance' that T's talk about, and outside the ability to process the trauma perhap? (or at least it is for me, as i'm too busy experiencing the past to be able to be in a cognitive/processing here and now).
I worry that it not happening is a bad thing.
if the above is re-living and not processing, then it not happening now is a good thing? as you're now in that 'window of tolerance' where you can sit with the memory and not relive it?
Even though my fear that it will is next level. That’s what I mean by what I was bracing for
maybe you're bracing yourself for that re experiencing, and you can process it without it being re traumatising?
 

Charbella

MyPTSD Pro
T was no help. The problem is that all the things that mean the work is being done are also all the things that mean I’m boxing it away. I’m sleeping better, cutting less, less SI but these are things that happened when I boxed the memories away. So how am I supposed to know?

I had what felt like a flashback on the way home but it was quick. Evil looming, feeling the floor of the last memory but it didn’t develop it went away. As I’d just decided to do EMDR with the memory from the week before instead of that one, I chalked it up to needing to think that decision through a bit more. However now I’m home and I’m thinking is this another example of me not dealing with it? Is this my attempt to put it back in storage? Because I got really good at doing that with the flashbacks, not letting them develop, pushing the memory out and locking the door. It so frustrating not knowing.

On family systems they call it the protectors and I can’t shake the feeling that mine are working overtime in the depths of my mind and anytime I seem to be paying attention they pull the curtain and quiet the noise.
 

Weemie

MyPTSD Pro
For me, a memory that has been fully coherently processed is one that ceases to cause distress. Or at least, the distress that may come is something I'm also able to process and work through and not be submerged into the depths. A fully processed memory is one that I'm able to sit with peacefully more often than not. They're rare, but it's no longer at zero. That's how I know I'm making progress.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
@Charbella , I wonder if asking yourself what fully processing looks like for you might help? Because I wonder if you're putting too much pressure on yourself?
Because, from how you're expressing yourself on here and how I'm interpreting that: I see you processing and not blocking out. It's a process that has it's own path, and you seem to be on iit.
But that maybe you don't believe you are?
 
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