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Emotional Memory Management - Dealing with Triggers #44387
01/03/11 11:47 PM
01/03/11 11:47 PM
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Mark1952 Offline OP
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Vit asked me to bring some of this over from the other site.

Much of the thread over there was lost in the great crash of 2008 and much of it was replies from and to others that I can't copy. If anyone wants the link to the original, drop me a line and I'll give it to you.

I tried to remove specific references to things from the other site, but if you find any point them out and I'll remove or explain further.


Last edited by Mark1952; 01/21/11 10:42 PM. Reason: Change title of the thread

mark1952.ma@gmail.com

I Was Thinking...

The secret to having a good marriage is to understand that marriage must be total, it must be permanent, and it must be equal.-- Frank Pittman
Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: Mark1952] #44388
01/03/11 11:48 PM
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Emotional Memory Management: Dealing with Triggers In Recovery

I've been reading stuff all over the place for a while now about the concept of managing our memories. I think both BS and WS need to learn to monitor and modify our memories so I will attempt to discuss both sides though the overall concept is applicable to both sides of the discussion.

There are two memory systems at work in our brain. The procedural or implicit memory system recalls emotions and concepts along with behavioral memories while the declarative or explicit memory recalls details. Implicit memories are pretty much not under our control and happen without much input from us. They are linked to that part of the brain called the amygdala. But explicit memories are linked to the part of the brain called the hippocampus and are very much under our control.

For every memory file there are two parts of the file, the emotional/physiological and the details of the event itself or other things surrounding that event. Expressed as a formula we could say that: Memory File= Details + Physiological Response.

Many of our procedural/implicit memories require no input from us at all. They simply happen on their own. This is how we ride a bicycle. We don't think about, recall the details of how to maintain balance and execute a list of steps; we just get on, start peddling and ride away. Explicit or declarative memories usually do require us to purposely recall them in order to cause them to come into our consciousness.

Those memories that are strongest, that is, have the most staying power and are most easily recalled are those that have the greatest physiological component to them So if I were to ask (at least those in my age group) where were you when you heard that JFK had been shot, you would instantly recall even minor details of that moment in time, forever frozen in you memories. For those born a little later a similar event might be the explosion of the space shuttle and for those living on the west coast it might be the Northridge quake in 1994.

Most of us know exactly what we were doing when the World Trade Center was struck. I can see easily the second plane as it slammed into the tower and the fire-ball that exploded from the building. I can also see the people who jumped to their deaths falling in space as they tried to escape the flames. I can even see the necktie of one man streaming behind him as he fell to his death. The emotional aspect of these things is what allows us to recall such minute details and is why they are in fact unforgettable.

Now the thing about all of this dual memory system is that one side of a memory can and does cause the other side to be recalled. When we see someone that we have not seen in many years such as an old classmate, we first scan their face, link what they look like to a memory file and almost at once know that we know them. But it takes a little longer for us to look into the other part of the brain and find a name that we can associate with a face and say "John, good to see you." In some cases, we might never recall the name and stumble through a conversation with someone who seems to be an old friend that we know we once knew but we have no recall of any details of anything we ever did while with that person and therefore haven't a clue who they actually might be.

But if we had a strong emotional reaction to someone in our past, then not only do we recognize them instantly as someone we should know, but a few seconds later, the memories of the physiological aspects of our memories of them are activated and we feel exactly the same things we felt when with them before. All the same chemicals that were at work in our brain when the memory was created suddenly flood our brains and things like increased blood pressure, adrenaline spikes and a whole bunch of other things are there in short order.

But an emotion can trigger a memory file as well. Either half of the equation when recalled by our brain brings about the other half in some way. But for both the BS and the WS, the biggest problem is that when we have a certain explicit memory (details) the implicit or emotional response follows unless we do something to short circuit that trigger.

For a WS this means that when thinking of an affair partner in any way, the emotions of the affair come flooding back in less than two minutes. This is why a past lover can never remain a friend and we must have no contact with that lover for the rest of our lives. Simply seeing that person will trigger the emotional side of the memory file equation and the feelings we once had associated with that person come flooding back into our consciousness very quickly. These emotional reactions then trigger additional detail memories which then bring up the emotional aspects of those and the cycle begins to repeat until the affair reigniting becomes a very real possibility.

For the BS, the problem is what we would call triggers that cause the anguish, pain, sadness and all the rest to be manifested soon after the memory of the betrayal is brought to the forefront of our minds. This is the cause of PTSD that a strong negative emotional event brings about that causes us to relive that event over and over again.

But the good news is that we can begin to manage this process to our advantage. An emotional response can be re-associated with a new event or series of events and the event itself can be redirected so that the emotions are prevented by thinking of something else first or by creating a new memory that gets associated with the emotions before they happen by creating a new link between the new event and the old emotion.

For the WS, this means that when you think of the affair partner, and the emotions are about to come flooding back into your brain, thus causing you to desire to relive those emotions with that affair partner, you can in fact begin thinking about your spouse first and so cause the emotions to start being redirected toward your spouse instead of the affair partner. This is basically the opposite of what happened when the affair began since your emotions and feelings did not start out being associated with the affair partner but with your spouse and only after a repetition of a few times did those feelings become associated with the affair partner instead.

Additionally, when feelings of sorrow, sadness and remorse cause you to become depressed over what you have done, those emotions need to be associated directly with the affair and not with your spouse. By doing this, eventually, your brain begins to link the sadness and depression with the affair instead of with your spouse.

For the BS, this link between an event memory and the negative emotions can cause real problems because when we think of the affair it causes us all the same negative emotions from the trauma of the betrayal. This then causes us to consider the source of the betrayal, our spouse, in context with the negative feelings and emotions. By redirecting our thoughts to something more associated with a positive emotion we can manage the memory by creating a new association with something more positive thus linking it to our spouse, eventually causing the negative feelings to fade as the good replaces the bad when we think of our spouse.

The research for all of this is relatively recent and concepts are still evolving. The original research was done regarding burn victims who often relive the trauma of being burned whenever they are triggered in any way to recall the event. For some it might be seeing a flame; for others it could be a pain that triggers the memory of the fire. Heat, pain, light, or a smell can all cause these triggers. In fact any one of our senses might trigger us to relive such a horror in all its emotional, painful and exacting details. Memory management techniques have been shown to lesson the affects of PTSD in such cases and after a couple of years of dealing with the trauma of betrayal, I believe that the same methods are what can make the difference in healing from that betrayal and moving on whether the marriage is restored or not.

Since we cannot control the physiological and emotional aspects of the memory, it requires that we learn to modify the event part of the equation and by so doing hopefully create a different set of emotions attached to new memories so that we no longer have to relive the pain and suffering that resulted from the affair.

This is what we are actually doing when we reclaim aspects of our lives such as visiting a place again and building new better memories thought hat place once was linked in our minds to the affair. It is why hysterical bonding sex when it occurs is so powerful in helping a couple reconnect. It is why taking a vacation together during early recovery can help with that reconnection as well and it can also be how we can overcome our anxiety over seeing a certain color or type of vehicle as we drive along the road to work.

The emotions involved in an affair are so strong and so profound for both the WS and the BS that the process can take a long time to happen. But I believe it might be possible to speed the process up by making a conscious effort to invoke the ability of the brain to control those parts of memories that it can control and so redirect or prevent the emotions and feelings from causing us to relive the trauma.

I have some thoughts as to application but won't go into them here since I think specific circumstances call for specific modification efforts geared toward a single portion of the memory process for a specific event or memory. This requires modification to fit the specific needs of each person and couple rather than a broad stroke application as described here.


mark1952.ma@gmail.com

I Was Thinking...

The secret to having a good marriage is to understand that marriage must be total, it must be permanent, and it must be equal.-- Frank Pittman
Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: Mark1952] #44389
01/03/11 11:49 PM
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Because of the way memories exist in the brain, with a detail component and an emotional component, recalling one automatically recalls the other. The more intense the emotional content of a memory, the more intense the memory itself.

When we have an emotional reaction various neurotransmitters flood our brains. These can include dopamine, serotonin, nor-epinephrine and other chemicals that cause us to feel certain things and certain ways. They are in fact the basis of what we call feelings and emotions. When the right combination of chemicals is present, we feel a specific way and whenever this combination is present we always feel that way.

Our brain typically only recalls things for about 5 days from the time they take place. We keep them active for a short while to see if they are important and if nothing comes of them in about 5 days or so, our brain dumps them in order to avoid cluttering things up with unimportant details.

We can memorize by repetition a group or list of things that really have little to no emotional content. (When was the Declaration of Independence signed?) As time goes on and we don't use these things, those memories begin to fade, that is, they become harder and harder to locate and recall. (Article III of the US Constitution has to do with what branch of the federal government?)

But there are also things that we repeat so often that we no longer have to think about them at all for them to play themselves out. Riding a bicycle is just one example of this type of thing. Though some of us might have had much more emotional instances of riding one, anyone who ever has ridden one very much can get on one years later and with no thoughts about how to operate it, ride off into the sunset.

Another example of this type of memory would be playing a musical instrument. If I practice a song on the guitar enough, I get to a point where the music just happens and I don't even have to think about it. For years this type of memory was thought o be teaching the body to execute the proper steps without the brain really getting involved, thus making the action into more of an instinct than a chosen activity. But if that were true, how would one be able to play not one song, but any one of several hundred chosen specifically for playing at that time?

What it seems is happening is that the emotional content of the memory, though very low in level compared to many activities actually becomes dominant. Emotions happen without any input from us and just kind of flow along so when a memory file has been basically transferred from the logical side of the brain to the side that controls emotion (and language as well) it becomes a kind of program that can be executed without taking up a lot of processor overhead. We don't have to think the music, we literally feel our way from beginning to end with almost no conscious thought going into the process at all.

In the case of a WS who had a romantic relationship with an affair partner, the memories contain both details and a high emotional content. These memories are quite strong. Not from the point of view of the WS wanting them to be strong, but because all of these chemicals flooded the brain of the WS at the moment the memories were being created, those memories are fixed pretty solidly into their memory banks.

When those memories are triggered, not by choice but by some almost random event that causes one of these memory files to be invoked, the details appear almost instantly. But between 90 and 120 seconds later, exactly the same chemicals that were present during the original event flood the brain of the person having the memory and they "feel" exactly the same things as they did in the first case.

But in reality, exactly the same thing is what a BS counts on while trying to win back our wayward spouse. We stimulate memories of the past and of our history together that invoke those good emotions in our WS. The kids remind the WS of the BS. The house reminds the WS of the BS. The car, the television program, the smell of burning leaves, the sound of traffic on the freeway, a certain song all remind the WS of the marriage they are contemplating the destruction of with little regard for what the ramifications of that really mean.

A WS will suppress those memories by consciously shifting their thoughts to something else, often to some past wrong or perceived wrong committed by the BS. They will rewrite history by making an effort to quench those good memories while at the same time transferring the emotions of those memories to the AP.

And in recovery, this is the process that has to take place in reverse, though the WS has to actually want to reverse the process for recovery to really take place. A conscious decision is once again made to replace the thoughts of the AP that bring about good feelings with thoughts of the BS that begin to replace the AP in that instant so that the feelings are once more associated with the BS.

But the memories are still intact and though not accessed for a long period of time still contain the emotional content they once held. It is not a decision for this to happen but simply the very nature of memories and how they exist in the human brain.

If you and your FWS run into the former AP at the mall and the FWS instantly reaches out to the BS and reaffirms the commitment and attraction then BOTH of you short circuit the emotional content of the memories. For the FWS, the good feelings are transferred to the BS and for the BS the negative feelings are replaced by good ones since a NEW memory pattern is being laid down that includes the FWS showing care and concern for the BS instead of allowing the negative emotions to take hold.

But the danger lies in when the former lovers run into each other unexpectedly and find themselves face to face with no one else around to grab hold of and no other thoughts to transfer the emotions to. Seeing each other invokes memories, beginning with details surrounding acknowledgement of recognition and extending all the way to sudden memories of some past event or events. Since these things all hold a strong emotional component, the FWS is suddenly bombarded by all of these chemicals that are the cause of the feelings in the first instance and bring them all back in the second.

Now an affair that ended badly, which most usually do, also invokes a flood of negative emotions (the remorse, the sadness over hurting the BS, the damage done to the kids and all those things that resulted from the days, weeks or months of conflict over the affair) and in many cases these negatives outweigh the desire to allow the positive feelings to emerge. The FWS instantly transfers his or her thoughts to the pain caused during the original affair and a rekindling of the affair is averted.

But nearly as often the WS does NOT short circuit those emotions or shunt them off in another direction and so is overwhelmed by the emotions of the original affair. Changing what happens requires a conscious thought that invokes the new direction while doing nothing at all allows the old emotions to arrive 90 to 120 seconds into the memory event and once those chemicals fill the brain, the emotions follow like turning on the switch lights the light bulb. Just like the light bulb does not have to choose to turn on, the WS does not have to want the emotions to be there. Simply not doing anything to prevent them from happening means that they will happen because of the emotional component of memory that is there waiting to flood the brain with dopamine, nor-epinephrine and serotonin and endorphins.

As much as we would like to believe that "LOVE" is a magical thing and that we can find "THE ONE" that is meant for us and that bond will forever be there and unbreakable (this is actually what causes many to end up in affairs, BTW), the reality is that we are creatures of biology and as such we react to chemicals in ways we don't get to choose.


mark1952.ma@gmail.com

I Was Thinking...

The secret to having a good marriage is to understand that marriage must be total, it must be permanent, and it must be equal.-- Frank Pittman
Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: Mark1952] #44390
01/03/11 11:50 PM
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This from Joseph M Carver, PHD on Emotional Memory Management..

I don't know when this was written. I bookmarked the site a while ago, but just got around to reading some of his stuff.

Emotional Memory Management


mark1952.ma@gmail.com

I Was Thinking...

The secret to having a good marriage is to understand that marriage must be total, it must be permanent, and it must be equal.-- Frank Pittman
Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: Mark1952] #44437
01/04/11 02:12 AM
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Originally Posted By: Mark1952
I tried to remove specific references to things from the other site, but if you find any point them out and I'll remove or explain further.

I don't see any references to the other site that may have been missed.

Thank you for bringing this over. smile

I have one suggestion, this would be a good thread in the 'Turning Point' forum.


26 yrs. married
There's nothing more powerful than a woman with an open heart ......
Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: Vittoria] #47315
01/08/11 07:22 AM
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Very interesting, so a bs is in ptsd? That explains a lot of what I am feeling even though it has been going on awhile, or DD happened awhile ago. And the pain is just like when I found out.

tink

Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: ] #68398
02/11/11 11:04 PM
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mark1952.ma@gmail.com

I Was Thinking...

The secret to having a good marriage is to understand that marriage must be total, it must be permanent, and it must be equal.-- Frank Pittman
Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: Mark1952] #68444
02/12/11 01:08 AM
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Thanks for bumping. I needed help with memory management, as it is a huge stumbling block for me lately. I'm printing and reading in depth this weekend.

Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: girlfromipanema] #68891
02/13/11 12:13 PM
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Thanks for pointing me here Believer and Mark!

Very interesting reading, retraining ones thoughts is some thing I certainly identify with as I had to do a lot of that when H first left and I started my DB 180's. I still struggle with fear and putting things off because of fear, but have been successful with other things.. I think what is lacking for me is a way to help H understand that I need help putting this moments right, rather than a there there stroke and superficial pat on the head. We are hoping to get away on holiday this summer and make new memories!


Once was lost but now found and happily married!

The story
http://www.marriageadvocates.com/ubbthreads/ubbthreads.php/topics/34625/Where_do_I_go

Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: Vittoria] #92250
04/09/11 02:51 AM
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Originally Posted By: Vittoria

Thank you for bringing this over. smile

I have one suggestion, this would be a good thread in the 'Turning Point' forum.


I agree that this would be good on the Turning Point forum, possibly stickied to the top. I looked there for it first.

Glad it's here. Thanks, Mark and Vit.

Ace


We're overcoming decades of marital dysfunction including abuse, passive aggression, gas-lighting & infidelity (both of us).

Our Weird and Ongoing Story
Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: Ace] #123542
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Moved from another short thread that is now buried deeper than bedrock.

Originally Posted By: tink
What if the new memories you are turning out bad? I thought before the memories were good and apparently not


Originally Posted By: Mark

Tink,
You have read the whole thread, right? The NEW memories replacing old ones is how we move past a traumatic experience. But it makes things better only once we begin to recover from the experience since during the trauma all memories are going to keep us tied right to what is happening to us. This is actually why it is so necessary to have no contact with an active wayward of any kind. It allows you to NOT be triggered as to what is going on all the time and so layer even more bad stuff on top of the already painful memories you already have. Those who remain in contact too long end up with so much horrible stuff to deal with that the wayward will forever be associated with the horror and pain in their memories. (Not really forever, but way longer than most can accept and still restore the relationship)

The point of attempting to manage our memories is that while we can't choose how we feel about something we can choose whether or not we will think about it and I am not talking about conflict avoidance here but about selectively processing data and event memories rather than randomly following those memories wherever they go.

The way our brain usually works is like surfing the web. We see a link and click on it. As the page loads we might see another link and click on that which takes us someplace else where clicking a link leads us to something which takes us to something else and before we know it we have spent 2 hours and 40 minutes looking for something to look at.

Now if one of those links is to something to which we have a highly emotional reaction such as the World Trade Center crumbling to the ground, then that can cause us to begin to look at more links of that event or similar events we have experienced and before we know it, we have spent the entire morning reliving a horrible event, feel depressed and hopeless and find ourselves in this huge emotional cavern in the darkness that feels like it closed in around us without warning.

Eventually life itself intervenes and enough newer memories replace the old ones that with time we stop finding those links by accident. For a long time though, we let ourselves follow them whenever they appear and so when triggered by something find ourselves reliving the worst day(s) of our lives. This is what PTSD is like. Seemingly random events relate enough to something we already experienced that we find ourselves thinking about those events that hurt us again and just like clockwork, 90 to 120 seconds after we click that link and let ourselves begin to relive that moment in time the emotional part of the memory rushes over us.

Our brain works like loading an Internet page in many ways. Even high speed connections sometimes take a few seconds to load a page entirely. If you watch as it happens you'll see that certain parts of the page appear first, then other stuff like pictures show up, then Java content appears and finally, if there is any Flash stuff on the page, it begins loading, cues up and begins to run. Now if the pictures and other stuff are coming from different files, it can take longer for them to load than the rest of the page and we might even find a link and click onto another page before they all appear on the screen. That is the technique I am describing in the article.

By choosing to follow another link and go to some other memory page all together before the page loads entirely we find ourselves looking at something more pleasing than what was going to show up on the page we most feared. But it means that we have to learn to identify those memories (pages) that cause us to experience the pain and suffering and actively find something else to look at entirely. It isn't just a matter of not thinking about them, but of finding more pleasurable things to think instead before the whole page loads into our conscious thoughts.

In order to replace the bad memories with newer ones that are better, you have to actually create those newer memories. If everything you do is related to or brings you back to the traumatic event still unfolding in your life you can't create better memories to insert when you are still dealing with it minute by minute. It requires that the event be over and that you find yourself doing things that are in no way related to it.

That help or make it more confusing?

Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: Vittoria] #135325
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This information is wonderful! I have been triggering so badly the past few days and I had no idea how to handle them. I knew if I could not find a way soon our recovery would be in jepardy. I have printed this infomration out and will share it with my H too. Thank you so much!

Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: wildwoodflower] #173873
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So let me understand here- the key to alleviating negative memories it create new positive memories.

What do you do when you remember a negative event concerning your spouse that was very hurtful- redirect your thinking to positive memories?


Me 41
H 40
S 9
S 6

I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night. -Bishop G. Brewer
Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: Mary Emma] #173978
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Mark1952 Offline OP
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Daisy,

Working on my tab while sitting in my truck, so this won't be as long as I might otherwise post.

The short answer is not quite to your first point and yes to your second.

Eventually, you can create newer more positive memories that will give your mind more positive things to dwell on, but at first it will be better memories you aready have in your mind that you need to focus on.

What makes this even possible, and what the main point is regarding the process, is the understanding that the emotional content of a memory follows the thinking about it by nearly two full minutes. That time is significant. If anyone doubts that, see how many topics you can think about in two minutes. It is because there is a delay between remembering something and feeling the pain/hurt or happiness/good stuff that it is possible to modify the emotions we feel simply by changing what we are thinking about.

Especially early on in dealing with an affair, it may be necessary to think about someone or something other than (F)WS. You already have good memories surrounding family, friends, children... they are things that make you smile. Think about those things instead whenever you find yourself going down the road toward betrayal and painful thoughts.

For those who get into recovery, new memories must be created and those new memories must be replacements fro the bad ones of the affair if the marriage is going to work out. This means that things that were a problem before or during the affair must be dealt with. This can include lying, failure to account for time away from each other, not answering the telephone, not giving straight answers to questions about life in general, etc.

Sorry if any typos are present. Editing on this thing is worse than using pen and paper... I'll try to remember to edit latere when I have a real keyboard and browser.

Glad I couldn't make my usual long reply?


mark1952.ma@gmail.com

I Was Thinking...

The secret to having a good marriage is to understand that marriage must be total, it must be permanent, and it must be equal.-- Frank Pittman
Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: Mark1952] #174823
11/05/11 02:22 PM
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Mark,

I am interested in learning more about your ideas. I don't quite get how one replaces memories. While I can get how new memories can be created, I don't believe it is possible to displace the bad ones.

Those people with a lot more to get past will obviously have a lot more to try and replace. Given my relationship, it would mean totally erasing a decade plus of information as just about every "positive" memory has been tainted with the stain of the betrayal. For those that have endured years of affairs, I simply can't grasp how this is possible.

Redirection of your thoughts seems like a good way to go but in a way it would seem too only make things worse. It is sometimes very difficult to ignore the elephant in the room when you are in fact trying to ignore the elephant in the room. In fact, this seems to fly in the face of what I have been reading and learning in IC. Mindfulness and understanding why you are feeling what you are feeling seems to work for a great many people. Eventually, working through the issues helps remove SOME of the sting that comes from the trauma. In a way, it allows an emotional callous to form over the hurt.

How do you propose that one think about other things when painful events invade their thoughts? What happens to the suppressed emotions? Are they simply swept under the rug for a future date?




Don't go shaking the [Bleep!] tree and expect an angel to fall out.

Liars lie and cheaters cheat...know it and don't be surprised. Protect yourself.

Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: Medc] #174877
11/05/11 07:12 PM
11/05/11 07:12 PM
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SW Chicago 'burbs
Mark1952 Offline OP
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Mark1952  Offline OP
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MEDC,

Part of the problem so many of us have is in dealing with the grieving that follows such a huge loss such as the break-up of a marriage, loss of family to death or even loss of a long time job due to unforeseen circumstances. This idea isn't really part of that grieving process as much as it is a way of dealing with the things that trigger our (uncontrolled emotional) responses to the elephant in the room.

This isn't a way to not deal with the issues or pain, simply a way to stop allowing the pain and turmoil to dominate our lives. When we speak of dealing with those things, we are really talking about preventing them from taking over our lives and crippling us with negative emotional responses. It is the issues we need to deal with and not the emotions those issues trigger in us. We can't control our emotions. We can however control what we think about and by thinking about things that do not lead to crippling emotions prevent ourselves from being crippled by those emotions.

Emotions aren't like a container that can only hold so much and then must be emptied in order to prevent explosion. Our ability to have emotion is as boundless as our ability to remember details. We don't have to experience the emotion present in a memory every time that memory occurs to stop our emotions from filling up.

Emotions related to a specific event or series of events are stored in part of our brain that doesn't save details. All that is there is the emotional content. Think of it as a sort of subroutine in a program designed to preserve segments of our life. The details are accessed quickly from files on a local drive while the emotions are segmented away, as if on a remote server that requires time to access.

The details always appear first when we choose to think about an event, much like the loading of a web page. First the overall format takes shape, then the text like details start to load. If we stay on that page long enough, graphics appear and finally stuff like Flash content, Java utilities etc. Over all, the sum total is something recognizable as a unique page on the World Wide Web. Our problems come from the fact that if we wait for the entire page to load before we click away, in the case of painful memories the last piece that loads is a virus that begins to access other files on our local drive and searching the remote server for the additional pain and hurt related pages and reloading them, one at a time, in sequence until we find ourselves not thinking about the details any more, often as the result of sheer exhaustion.


For those who experience loss, an overwhelming flood of emotions, recognizing those specific details that are related to the mind numbing, paralyzing emotions only comes by experience and that by dealing with the memories themselves in healthy ways. Stifling the memories by pretending the event never happened is not part of this process.

For those who are trying to live life yet are haunted by memories that cripple them time and again, or bring out the anger, frustration and desire for revenge, letting the emotions overwhelm the rational thoughts do not eliminate the emotions nor does it eliminate the thoughts. Part of what makes the original emotional content so focused on pain, fear and uncertainty is the lack of known outcome at the time the emotional connection to the event took place. Now however, we do know the outcome and it didn't turn our nearly as bad as our greatest fears at the time of the event. Yet our memory still holds exactly the same emotional content it held when we first experienced the flood of turmoil and grief. For any hope of restoration of a relationship with a person we saw (and might still see) as the source of that pain and turmoil, we have to disconnect the uncertainty about outcome at the time of the event from the real and only much later identifiable outcome and the realization that we did in fact survive.

We now can begin to move past that initial web page filled with stuff once unknown and even unknowable and start to click on the link to where we really want to go instead of lingering, waiting for the page to load entirely. It isn't suppressing the emotions, simply not having to experience them over and over. They are only present when we access them and not waiting, building pressure somewhere, looking only for an outlet in order to show themselves. This is the way we think we experience them, but that explosion is nothing more than failing to act on the emotions by trying to tell ourselves we shouldn't be feeling that way but should feel another way. It is a cognitive process that is doomed to fail because emotions have no right, wrong or neutral, only feelings and responses.

Once we realize that whatever the outcome, we will survive and perhaps even thrive, we start making progress in dealing with things that cause us to be overwhelmed emotionally. The process I describe here is doing exactly that but with the known outcome and the knowledge of all that has occurred since the traumatic event.

The process of dealing with highly emotional memories does not require that we give in to our more basic instincts and fears. Even before the outcome is fully realized, we have the ability to modify our repsonse by adjusting the way we are thinking. It is how we can be cut off on the freeway and NOT ram into the guy that did it, shove him into a guard rail and eliminate the threat to humanity that he represents at the moment we first encountered him. It is how we prevent ourselves from beating our children when they do stuff we experience as a threat to the well being of the family.


Our memories follow sort of a path that is predicable and describable. As it relates to some trigger that causes us to relive the traumatic events all over again it sort of looks like this...

Random event > recall specific event > examine details of specific event > experience the emotions of the event > respond by feeling the same way as during the original event.

The trouble with the dealing with (seemingly) random triggers that cause us to relive the trauma can again be related to the web. As each traumatic event is loaded, in all it's gory detail time and again, with the flooding emotions following like clockwork in the response, other links to similar or related events appear. If we allow ourselves to click on those links, usually without giving it much thought before doing so, we can relive just about every painful experience related to that original event when the thing that set the whole process off was totally unrelated, benign and maybe only marginally even reminiscent of the original.

We can really only intervene between the second and third stage or in the final stage by modifying our responses. The emotion occurs in the fourth stage. If we reach that point, the emotions happen and we can no longer change the way we feel at all, only the way we respond to those emotions. When we suppress our emotions, this is what we are really doing, we are shorting out our responses and not stifling the emotions at all. This is a recipe for disaster as we relive the pain again and again until we finally allow our repsonse to be more in line with our beliefs, or we resolve the discontinuity and incongruity between what we feel and the way we are responding outwardly (cognitive dissonance).

The idea isn't replacing bad memories with good ones so much as it is identifying the memories that will cause us to relive the grief and pain and consciously change what we are thinking, not as it relates to the repsonse, but before we feel anything that we know will lead to the repsonse we fear, traumatizes us all over again and leaves us an emotional wreck.

One of the likely roles of oxytocin in our brain is the writing of memory tracks or a sort of rewiring of our brains. Things repeated time and again replace the process of evaluating the details of current events and responding to those events with a shorter utility that skips the details of the past and simply recalls the emotions of those past events and applies them to the current events. It is like transferring part of the overhead of the machine to a sub-processor like is done today to process huge volumes of video data while preventing the whole process taking place from slowing down. Oxytocin it seems, creates these shortcuts, allowing us to respond emotionally to any routine (memory) that elicits the response. Just like the CPU can intervene and stop these sorts of secondary processor subroutines, our cognitive process can intervene and stop us from reliving the entire event emotionally time after time.

The trick is to stop the subroutine before it is turned over to this sub-processor, since once begun, the routine is loaded, running and we can only modify the output by stopping the whole deal. The problem is that there is no stop or pause button on our emotional subroutine. Once given control of the process, it completes its function before acknowledging the CPU to look for more commands. So it is by changing the response by changing the input that we can stop reliving the trauma. We prevent the ultimately painful response by consciously changing the data sent to the sub-processor that outputs emotions.

Eventually, this is how we stop experiencing the pain over and over happens anyway. We at first dwell and obsess over the painful memories, fear our responses to them, face constant disconnection between what we feel and what we do outwardly. We then talk about doing something to "take our mind off of it" and get on with life. We start choosing to do things not related to the painful events and eventually function with only minor intrusions of the memory crashing our emotional state until at last, we seem to somehow get beyond the whole thing and live our life without so much as a residue of the once crippling pain.

What we are really doing is in fact taking our mind off of it. We choose to move our thoughts to something else that does not always lead to the pain of the original event. We replace the obsession and continual dwelling on the negative event with other stuff, not usually even related to the original. We stop feeling the pain because we stop thinking about the painful experience. We don't have to deny that it exists or that it once happened in order to do this, but we don't have to relive the emotions time and again unless we choose to do so.

What I propose here is that we identify the way we eventually learn to get beyond (not over, but passed) the events that cause us trauma and implement it by choice as we learn to identify those memories that always lead to the traumatic feelings. We don't have to build new memories to replace the old ones before it takes effect, and for most of us we really only start to examine the process after we have already learned to control our emotions by that taking our mind off of it sort of deal. We already do this, but triggers we did not expect turn us back toward that loop of thinking about the event we dread, reliving the emotions and trying to suppress the rage, anger and the rest of the secondary outpouring that follows.

Once we identify the thoughts that are leading us down that path and know what to think about instead (as long as it is unrelated to the same emotions is all that matters) we can start to examine the trigger itself to learn to identify it, find a way to avoid it or now begin to build new and better memories around that same trigger. This is the only real way to actually restore a marriage after infidelity since the spouse who had the affair is the only trigger needed to relive all the gory, horrific pain and fear of the first understanding of what happened.

Eventually, new memories do replace the old ones for most whether with the same spouse who betrayed them or without that person. Only those who build new memories around the trigger of the one who betrayed them will end up with a fully functioning marriage. Those who cannot build new memories fast enough or who do not or cannot short circuit the recall >>> feel subroutine do not restore the relationship though most begin to talk of personal recovery and do in fact learn to stop dwelling on and obsessing over the details and emotions of the past.

So all this really is from the outset the way our brain works anyway. What I am suggesting is recognizing that is the way it works and using it to our advantage instead of being surprised by emotions that paralyze us. It takes time and a high level of cognitive ability that gets lost once we start to experience the emotions to look at a trigger to see why it triggers us. We can more readily identify those memories we already know will lead us into that oblivion of blinding pain and so learn to stop the pain before it begins, giving us time to now devote to understanding and analyzing the trigger itself and figuring out what to do about it.

This is how we move on and nothing more. I am simply saying we need to do it on purpose instead of by accident and by choice rather than by biological influences alone. It is modifying the emotions we cannot control by changing what we think, which we can control. It is not suppressing the memories but identifying them and choosing to not let them control us. It is doing what is how healthy minds get beyond traumatic events by doing it on a conscious instead of an unconscious level. The alternative is to let the pain and trauma cripple us until we build new experiences, often just as painful, to replace them. This lets our obsession grow rather than subside.


mark1952.ma@gmail.com

I Was Thinking...

The secret to having a good marriage is to understand that marriage must be total, it must be permanent, and it must be equal.-- Frank Pittman
Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: Mark1952] #206972
02/13/12 12:16 AM
02/13/12 12:16 AM
Joined: Aug 2010
Posts: 12,611
The Dark Side of the Moon
AntigoneRisen Offline
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This thread has now been published as an article.


Critical Thinking: The Other National Deficit

"That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." - Christopher Hitchens
Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: AntigoneRisen] #207109
02/13/12 03:52 PM
02/13/12 03:52 PM
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believer Offline
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Thanks, AR. I'm always loosing it, and having to ask poor Mark where it is.


"I feel sad that I focused so much on his potential and so little on mine."
Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: Vittoria] #399805
11/26/15 02:37 AM
11/26/15 02:37 AM
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Forthelove Offline
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Sweet sweet sweet mother of pearl. Whomever this mark fellow is is genius. So useful. Makes so much sense. So much

Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: Forthelove] #400154
12/01/15 04:26 PM
12/01/15 04:26 PM
Joined: Aug 2010
Posts: 12,611
The Dark Side of the Moon
AntigoneRisen Offline
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He's definitely one of a kind. smile


Critical Thinking: The Other National Deficit

"That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." - Christopher Hitchens
Re: Managing the Emotions of Our Memories [Re: Mark1952] #445799
07/12/21 11:32 PM
07/12/21 11:32 PM
Joined: Aug 2010
Posts: 7,566
New Zealand
Lil Offline

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Bump!


AKA Lildoggie

Just found out about your spouses affair?
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