3 February, 2023 by Andy Hunt
In some therapies, especially the ‘tapping’ based approaches there is a lot of emphasis placed on ‘defusing’ memories, that is taking the distressing emotional charge out of the memories.
This makes sense. In many ways we are a product of our experiences:
The events of our lives have an effect on us now. The traumatic or painful events of our upbringing can dominate our adult lives even if those events happened decades ago.
We learn to be who we are now. Our solutions to earlier problems show up in our thoughts, feelings and behaviour long after those problem situations have been left behind.
The principle in most of the ‘tapping therapies’ is that by defusing the memories of those experiences it makes it easier to change our beliefs, behaviours and responses for the better.
This approach works well, but the practitioner has to find the right memories and the client needs to be able and willing to process them.
If you have experienced abuse or neglect the thought of going back to revisit these memories might not be very appealing. Some clients spend a lot of their time and energy trying to avoid revisiting these experiences.
A competent practitioner would be able to help defuse these kinds of memories safely and with the minimum of distress. Done well the results of this work can be transformative, but the experience itself might be difficult.
Clients in this predicament often have two concerns:
They don’t want to go back into the memories, especially if a previous therapist has forced them to do that and it wasn’t a pleasant or useful experience for them.
They don’t remember the details of what happened, especially if they were very young at the time, and think (mistakenly) that they need to be able to remember the events clearly in order to process them. (Memories of childhood abuse are often fragmentary and indistinct).
So, it’s not surprising that many clients don’t want to work that way.
Fortunately, neutralising memories is not the only way to make progress with deep and difficult issues. In the Identity Healing processes we work with the results of those experiences: the younger parts of ourselves that came into being to deal with those difficult experiences.
I reassure my clients that we don’t need to know what happened, we may only need to work with the younger selves created during those times.
I often use this analogy to help clarify and explain this approach.
I grew up on the island of Anglesey on the north west coast of Wales. That part of the island is flat, rugged, windswept and usually bare of trees. Some of the few trees that grow there have been bent out of shape by the strong prevailing winds from the Irish Sea.
The wind has forced the trees over and they have grown at an angle. Even though it isn’t windy all the time, the trees still lean over on calm days because they have grown that way. They can’t spring back to vertical when the wind drops because the wind has shaped them.
‘The wind’ is like the events that have happened and ‘the trees’ are like your younger selves, ‘bent out of shape’ to adapt to those events.
Even though the abuse events had blown through their childhood a long time ago, those younger selves were ‘bent out of shape’ back then and are still ‘bending to adapt’ even though circumstances have long since changed.
What is important is that there may be no need to remember the events themselves, we need to access those younger selves to help them heal and ‘spring back to their natural shape’.
In Identity Healing we are more interested in the ‘trees that formed’ rather than the ‘winds that formed them’.