How to stop reliving my horrible past

a water colour painting of a memory

“The moments of life that were too intolerable to experience fully are actually preserved in our field of consciousness, energy, and body.

The body, energy, and mind in these fragments are literally tied up in the past, and are no longer available to function in the present.

All subsequent experience will be limited by the bound fragments in the body. There will be gaps where experience, emotion, and sensation are closed to life.”

There are many ways to release bound memories. Any method that helps people relax and loosen their grip on themselves, will help the release.”

~ Judith Blackstone

The above quote is a good description of how horrible past experiences continue to haunt you, long after they are over.

To understand why, it is helpful to understand how the brain experiences traumatic events, and how it stores them.

Because of neuroscientific research, we now know that our “mind” is in our bodies. We store memories as a complete snapshot of an event. The snapshot is like one seen in Harry Potter’s world. The picture is three dimensional and includes all our senses. It also includes emotions and feelings we were experiencing at the time. These memories are stored in our bodies as the sensation we experienced at the time.

If you pay close attention to the times old memories are triggered for you, you will notice that you feel sensations in your body. These are the things you were experiencing at the time of the trauma.

Have you ever had an experience where you remember something really scary from your past and can describe everything about that event, even down to what you were wearing at the time?

That is because your body stored all the information and you have been able to recall it.

Not all memories are recalled, or are recalled fully. For a child who experiences something bad it may be too scary to remember the event so it is locked away in a part of the body that is off limits. Those memories may only ever return when something triggers them to be unlocked.

Even when a memory is unlocked, it is not always fully accessed. Even after the passage of many years, the full memory may be too overwhelming to be fully experienced.

There is another reason memories can be hard to access and it is related to the difficulties some adults have in understanding their own emotions.

For many children, living in a confusing world of adult rules, it can be really confusing to combine what they are feeling inside, with what they are being told to do. For example. A child may feel unsafe visiting an uncle but may be told by their parents not to be so silly, because their uncle is a wonderful man. So the child learns to not pay attention to their body in order to obey their parents.

A lot of people who come to see me have great difficulty understanding how to listen to and respect their intuition (those body sensations that indicate what they are feeling).

I often take people back to the childhood exercises of marking on a body outline what they feel and where it is felt when they have certain emotions.

So to get back to the quotation at the start of this blog. Old memories may be locked away, but the energy that was part of the memory does not go away. Talking therapies do not work well with these memories. A lot of these memories do not contain words, just sensations and feelings. How do you express memories like that?

My number one way to work with this is through drawing or painting. I particularly love, oil pastels, chalk, crayon, and paint. I find they are so expressive and the way they flow is wonderful. It is always interesting to draw or paint something and then look at what has been created. There are always surprises and insights to be gained from doing this.

Another way I work is by using symbols in sand. They can also be very effective.

These techniques are always used with attention to sensations in the body. At first those sensations may be hard to find. Particularly if you are used to not feeling those sensations. But with time, you start to feel those sensations. There are a number of ways to help you to learn to listen to your body. Mindfulness being one of the most useful.

A word of caution: it is always important to be careful when exploring old memories. Some can be really frightening to experience, particularly if you have not learned how to calm yourself down. This is where a trauma trained counsellor like me is helpful because I will teach you how to calm yourself before going anywhere near potential memories.

It is not necessary to recall all locked away memories. There are some that will be “knocking on the door” wanting to be recalled. There are also some that may return over time as you heal other memories. If the memories are recalled, then it is appropriate to attend to them. If they remain locked away, then they should be left alone.

You can heal from past trauma without having to relive or recall it.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your recalled memories, please contact me on 0409396608 or

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here:

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