Psychotherapy, in this instance, is the uncovering and dealing with traumatic memories whilst in hypnosis. In fact, modern psychotherapy now usually focuses on learning to deal with problems, without dredging up the past. Since these memories can have a profound effect on how you feel, my view is that you should deal with them as completely as you can.
I'll attempt here to explain, in very simple terms, what happens in you mind(s) when you store and retrieve information. It's then easier to understand WHY some memories can trouble you, years later, even when you think you've "dealt with it".
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To understand what can go wrong, we must first look at how we store memories. The actual workings of the brain, and the complex interactions that convert this biochemical/electrical organ are even now only poorly understood. However, we can best describe it in terms of a simple model.
The brain is divided into two parts, the Left and the Right. It is also constructed a bit like an onion. The older, more primitive parts lie deep in the centre. The Cerebral Cortex is that part of your brain where your mind resides. It forms the outer layer on the top, and front part, of your brain. The dividing line through the centre of your brain cuts the Cerebral Cortex in two. This means that your mind sits in two separate places. We usually consider that on the left sits the Conscious Mind and on the right, the Unconscious Mind, however, it is much more complex than this. (it may be more accurate to say that the Unconscious mind occupies the deeper, more ancient, parts of the brain.
This is where the logical, thinking, talking part of you lies. There is no emotion here. This is where you plan, criticise, work out. Only this side has language, and you think in words.
This is where we feel - where your emotions, needs and wants are. This side has NO language - you think in "lumps of thought" - sorry, but I can't think of a better expression.
The Super Ego is essentially your Conscience; your sense of right and wrong; your own Jiminy Cricket. It doesn't really fit into either of the above "Minds" in that it is a logical part of you, but it affects how you feel. It is your source of morals and religious or ethical feelings. For example, if you see someone trussed up in the street, you need to work out how to feel about it. Most people these days would feel the above was wrong, however, it the person was a mass murderer, you may feel no compassion at all.
One of the main effects of hypnosis is that your critical faculty fades as your Conscious Mind withdraws. This means that you tend to accept things that you're told. However, the Super Ego doesn't seem to go into hypnosis at all! It is still checking for "wrongness". This means that I can't do or say anything that would feel "wrong" in some way - Jiminy would whack you with his brolly so you'd notice it instantly!
We all hold in our brains a Model of the universe; the way things are. It is the sum total of all our knowledge and experience - our long-term memory. All memories are a mixture of fact and emotion. This means that both sides of the brain contribute to everything we learn.
It is our capacity to understand our environment that marks us out from all other animals. (Chimpanzees make and use tools, but they don't dominate the planet). In the days before civilisation, this kept us alive. E.g. we could recognise animal footprints and the direction in which it was going. (Pretty useful if it happens to be a lion.) The day we got this model wrong could well have been the day we got eaten! We are the descendants of people who were best at understanding their environment.
We follow one simple rule: Check the facts thoroughly before adding them to the Model.
The Conscious Mind is best equipped to check the facts. It tries very hard to reject all new information. When it is satisfied with the facts, it passes them over to the Unconscious Mind to add some emotion. (Note that this emotion could be simply "dead boring" - there is always some emotion.)
The next step is to add the new knowledge to the Model. Because the Unconscious Mind is holding the new fact - it ends up its job to put it away. This can't be done straight away - the Model is so complex that you have to "shut down" your brain before you update it. This is one reason why you sleep. The Unconscious Mind puts the new knowledge into an "In Tray", or short term memory. When we are asleep, the Unconscious Mind takes this new knowledge from the 'In Tray' and adds it to the Model.
The Conscious Mind doesn't even need to learn how to do this - it simply gets the Unconscious Mind to retrieve all the information for it.
For example, if we are looking at a cup, the Conscious Mind sends a request to the Unconscious Mind - "Tell me everything I know about a cup". The Unconscious Mind looks first at the Model and then checks in the In Tray for any new knowledge. It "experiences" the emotional content, and passes the factual information over to the Conscious Mind.
The information in the Model is all cross-referenced and indexed and so it can go straight to the relevant entries. However, the information in the In-Tray is more like a set of unrelated cards. The Unconscious Mind has to look at every card to see if there is any new information about a cup.
We sometimes wish we didn't know what we know! For example, let's say we discover that "Mum doesn't love me any more!" The Conscious Mind has worked out that this is why Mum shouted at me today, when I had done Hypnotherapy means Listeningnothing wrong. This new thought is passed to the Unconscious Mind to have the emotion added. This new thought, with a huge mass of negative emotion, is then passed to the In-Tray.
This is where the problems start. To a child, this is about as traumatic as it can be. "My whole life has just been turned upside down. After all, who will look after me, feed me and keep me safe? There must be something wrong with me if even my Mum can't love me!"
The Conscious Mind realises that it would have been better not to think that thought. Things were better 10 minutes ago. "I don't want it to be this way!" Apparently you can't delete memories and thoughts, so it does the next best thing: it instructs the Unconscious Mind not to add it to the Model of the universe. It is to pretend that it never happened.
The Unconscious Mind does what it is told. It doesn't take the thought out of the In-Tray to add it to the Model. It simply leaves it there! It adds a big red X and a notice: "Information not to be passed to the Conscious Mind. "It stays in your short-term memory for the rest of your life, as fresh as the day it was put there! Every time the Unconscious Mind requests information from the memory system, the Unconscious Mind finds the repressed memory and feels the associated emotion!
It also "knows" that information stored here is new and overwrites all "older" knowledge. It does this hundreds of times a second and so you constantly feel the anxieties from these repressed memories. The Conscious Mind is often also completely at a loss to know why we feel the way we do!
David Stocks SQHP, RSM
2 Crowhill Road,
Monday to Friday 9am - 7:30pm
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