Have you ever wondered WHY you stay sad, or even traumatized, by the bad things that happened so long ago?
Do you ever think, “Why am I not over this yet?” or “Why does this still hurt after all this time?”
Do you have any scars on your body? I have a scar on the outside of my left leg, from my knee joint to my hip. After the car accident that killed my children, I was so severely injured that they had to slice my leg open and stick in a steel rod. The longest piece of bone left in that mangled mess was under one inch long! That was 1991, but the scar is still there. It’s not the exact same skin, obviously. But the skin “remembers” what happened, doesn’t it?
In this, we find a clue to why emotional memories trigger pain even so much later.
When something important happens in our life, unusually good or unusually bad, or when we just THINK something that happens is important (even if other people disagree), we automatically attach that happening to a person, place or thing. Maybe a smell or a sound. Maybe tall or short men. Maybe women with red hair. Maybe turning left at stoplights. Maybe growling dogs. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Once that association has been made, however irrational, every time we encounter that stimulus, it triggers a response.
This is a part of what is called “PTSD” – post-traumatic stress disorder.
You can probably understand how a traumatized soldier would start every time a car backfires. For years, the smell of smoke – even though I wasn’t in LA when my house burned down – triggered a whole string of emotions. Anything your brain associates with the original event sets off the response in you.
The problem is this: you may or may not even notice what the heck just stimulated you to feel those bad feelings again. And the more often you are unconsciously stimulated, the deeper the groove gets worn into your head, and the harder it is to get rid of it, especially without help. One of the things therapists and others who deal with PTSD and traumatized people do is to bring them to awareness of what triggers their emotions. Then the soldier – for instance – can say to himself, “That was a car backfiring, not a gun.” (Decoding Traumatic Memory Patterns at the Cellular Level, McClaskey, Thomas R.)
By calmly and logically bringing up the stimuli to the conscious mind (by using reframing, NLP, guided imagery, hypnosis, therapy, meditation, etc.) you can disassemble the stimulus-response mechanism inside you and reduce your symptoms so that you can have a freer, more peaceful, more open life.
Summary: You CAN get better! No matter what happened, there are ways to release it and not let those old stimuli trigger how you respond to things that happen in your world today. Promise! If you’re suffering, seek help.