Emotional Memory

Brain-conceptual-image-puzzleAnyone who has spent time on a fitness program knows that the muscles of our body are equipped with muscle memory.  Meaning that when we work out our muscles grow accustomed to different types of movement, thus turning it into an unconscious learning process for the body.  What would happen if we apply that to our emotions?

In my last post I talked about PTSD after divorce and this topic goes right along with it.  Recently I have suffered from effects of both PTSD and what I believe is emotional memory.  It has taken me by complete surprise.  I was even reluctant to publish the post thinking that it wasn’t really relevant to those suffering a divorce, but I was quickly put to ease when I started researching it.  I’m glad I decided to talk about it because it is a real problem and there are many of us suffering from it.  With support and the ability to share our stories, we can all learn how to get past this current emotional state.

At this point on my journey I was convinced that I was past all of that.  I had dealt with what I thought were all of my emotions during my divorce and for the first year afterwards.  Like I said in the previous post, I had forgiven and moved on.  I am finding out now that the journey of healing is a longer road than I thought.  I have reached a pretty high mountain and it was no where on my radar screen, it just appeared.

Take a second and pretend you are a  little kid again and have  just entered an amusement park….I bet right now you are feeling excited and happy and it feels just the same as it did all those years ago.  That is emotional memory.  We don’t think about it when it is something that makes us happy, we just accept the feeling because it is a good one.  It affects us in a totally different way when it is an emotion that caused us pain or sadness.

I was recently in a brief relationship with someone and just before it ended I could sense that something was a little off.  My intuition, which I finally am in tune with, was telling me that something was different.  When we had the conversation and ended things I felt exactly the same as I did when I received the email telling me my marriage was over.  I was overcome with emotions that I should not have been feeling because they were left over from the divorce.  It made no sense to me because you could not even compare the pain of my divorce to this current event.  However, since both situations ended in a loss, that was the trigger.  Even though they had very different outcomes the same emotional memory response was felt.  When this happened I started out being very angry with myself.  I was upset because I was spending more time with these emotions that I had already dealt with two years ago.  I was feeling very frustrated with the fact that maybe I’m crying now because I was too strong when I should have been weak, and really taken the time to face those feelings.  I quickly realized that is not the case.  No matter how much time I took dealing with those emotions as they were happening, my brain was busy storing them up.  It took this event to bring them back to the front of my memory, thus filling me with the exact emotional response. emotional memory

I will admit that all of this has been pretty scary.  I’m now faced with the fact that anything in life may produce these memory responses, and that they can happen at any time.   The hardest part will be allowing myself to live life and experience situations where some of these feelings may resurface.  I was under the impression that only the divorce itself could produce those emotions, and that since the divorce was over, I should never feel like that again….I was wrong.

I know now that my journey of healing is still very much in progress and I am thankful for the recent relationship.  Not only because it brought joy and happiness back into my life, but also because it took losing it to know that I still have a lot of work to do!  It is a blessing to me that I had enough courage to put myself back out there.  I am also grateful that it has happened now rather than ten years down the road.   Because right now I am still in battle mode and I will use the strength that I gained from having survived the divorce to learn how to handle this new stage of the healing and transformation process..  When it comes up again, which it will, I will be ready and know how to respond.  I’m slowly getting past the anger of it all and realizing that only I can choose how I handle this.  I am the only one living it, therefore I am the only one who can move me past it.   In a recent conversation with someone who means the world to me, I was reminded of an old song that speaks volumes for how I am currently feeling.  In the voice styling  of Joe Cocker  and Jennifer Warnes:  the road is long and there are mountains in our way, but we could climb a step every day….love lift us up where we belong!  I like to replace the word  love with they’ll, because as I climb each step of  any painful mountain, they’ll bring me closer to being fully healed.

I’ve begun keeping a dream journal to help me see what other subconscious emotions may be brewing inside this little brain of mine.  Talking it out with close friends and my counselor has also been beneficial.   I think it’s a little early for me to offer any concrete advice but I would like to suggest that if you are going through this, do not try to suppress it.  Let it out!  It will be very hard to feel all of the painful emotions again but it is the only way to heal through it.  If we keep suppressing them our emotional memory responses will never learn how to properly process them so that when they are brought out they are less painful each time.

I had several comments on the post relating to PTSD and I hope that there are other’s who will share their stories relating to that topic as well as this one.  Your comments and advice are welcome below!


Courageous Butterfly


Related Links/Blogs

Unconscious Emotion, Current Directions in Psychological Science

Intense Emotions and Strong Feelings, Psychology Today

What Comes Out When Squeezed, Missy Tree

What It Means To Be Human, anonymoUSly obvioUS