Why we Can’t Just Forget the Past

“I did not ask for the things I’ve been through, and I certainly didn’t ask my mind to paint and repaint the memories in the form of flashbacks.”

The majority of people who are living with trauma wish they could simply forget the past. But the fact is we can’t just wipe the slate clean, put it all behind us, and move on with our lives. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. By definition: trauma is unbearable and intolerable.

2. Thus, perhaps it’s not surprising that the traumatized person tries to avoid remembering the past, and push the experiences out of their mind.

3.  It’s impossible for survivors to put into words the traumatic experience, and the impact it has had. They do their very best to bury all the memories and pain, and to act as if everything in life is okay.

4. However, living in this way requires tremendous energy. It is extremely difficult to function normally while carrying the memory of the shock and the pain, the disorientation, the helplessness and shame, and the feeling of powerlessness and vulnerability.

5. But the brain isn’t good at denying the truth. Even though the painful memories may have been repressed, it still remembers we were deeply traumatized.

6. Thus, years after the event, a sudden unexpected trigger can reactivate the buried memories. The brain senses danger and it jumps back into action. It mobilizes circuits that are programmed to protect us.

7. It releases stress hormones and we experience, again, the symptoms associated with PTSD. We feel overwhelmed and weak, powerless, out of control, and we start to believe that we are damaged to the core.

8. Gaining understanding and talking can help; also, meaningful connections, drugs, EMDR, yoga, meditation and neurofeedback.

But it takes a lot of effort, patience, and hard work to help us to gain freedom from the torment of the past.


10 thoughts on “Why we Can’t Just Forget the Past

  1. I was able to speak with a trauma survivor recently, someone who has lived through the same type of betrayal as me. However, this dear lady is a little farther down the road to healing than I am.

    It was such a help to talk with her about our shared journey! She had some wise thoughts, about perspective, I hadn’t seriously considered. We talked for about 10 minutes and prayed together. I left feeling understood and empowered.

    My rambling point is this: trauma survivors need each other! When we meet up we should tell our stories and strengthen one another.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m so glad you shared this here. We DO need the encouragement of others who have been through the same kind of things as us. And I’m especially glad that this woman could pray with you. That makes such a difference!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you so much for this. I get cascades of memories at this time of the year and still struggle. So many times you are told to forget it all, or not focus on it, but the more we avoid the worse it gets..I heard a lovely thing in Al Anon it talked about being able to look back at the past without staring.. Trauma may make us feel like a rabbit stunned by headlights, it also leaves powerful body imprints so this is such an important post.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s