Regression therapy has been a cornerstone of healing from past trauma for thousands of years. Regression therapy is essentially any healing process that involves revisiting the past memories of experiences that are the source of current issues. The aim of doing so is to heal, transform and integrate their unconscious influence on the now. It has been a cornerstone of healing because it works.
However, regression healing caused the subject of suppressed memory to become a hot topic in the field of psychology. And once recovered memory started to lead people to the courtroom, the media was suddenly set ablaze with the buzz of false memory. This in turn made the topics of suppressed or repressed memory, recovered memory and false memory super controversial.
To understand false memory, we have to first look at suppressed memory. A suppressed memory occurs when a situation is associated with a high level of trauma or stress, and the memory of the entire situation is unconsciously blocked so that the person has no memory of it at all. Even though the memory affects that person on a conscious level, they have no ability to recall the specific memory.
Some people in the field of psychology dispute the concept of suppressed memory, while others support it wholeheartedly. I’m one of the supporters. Suppressed memory is real, and in fact I believe that nearly everyone has experienced it. The question isn’t whether or not someone has suppressed memory. The real question is: to what degree? Any time you do regression work, you discover elements of your life that you forgot. Perhaps it’s a friend you used to have in grade school that you suddenly remember or the color of your childhood room. When we recover these memories, we usually have a feeling of “wow, I can’t believe I completely forgot about that”. We don’t question whether that memory is real because it doesn’t conflict with our current reality or the narrative of our life. We only begin to question the suppressed aspects of our memories when the memories that surface or the elements of the memories begin to negatively challenge our current reality and the narrative of our life.
To understand more about suppressed memories, you need to understand how trauma works. Trauma is merely a state of emotional and mental distress caused by an experience. And trauma is not necessarily a veritable tragedy. For example, it’s traumatic to experience birth in today’s mainstream medical facilities. It’s traumatic to a baby to be weaned from its mother’s milk. It’s traumatic to a three-year-old to lose track of his mother in a grocery store. With this broad definition of trauma, you can see that even the best parents on earth couldn’t raise a child in a way that the child will experience absolutely no trauma. And be aware that what might seem like a somewhat minor trauma, such as perhaps a childhood disappointment, does not feel minor when you’re experiencing it.
Now it might be tempting to think that the human mind could never forget something super traumatic. This is true up to a point. When someone of any age experiences an event that is emotionally traumatizing, they may have no way to integrate the event into their conscious life. For a multitude of potential reasons, they can’t make it part of their personal narrative. When this happens, for the sake of their emotional survival, the person often entirely suppresses the memory. The memory is then dissociated from the self and stored in a fragmented way.
Let me explain what I mean by fragmented. A memory is accompanied by senses, such as sound, taste, smell, sight, and emotion. When a situation is particularly traumatizing, the sensory aspects of a memory are often stored separately. For example, the mind suppresses the images associated with the memory deeper than the emotions associated with the memory. For this reason, people who recover suppressed memories often perceive them or begin to remember them in fragments, which is why it can be so confusing to go through the process of recovering them.
For example, a person who has been sexually abused in childhood may have no memory of the actual event. But because the mind didn’t suppress the scent aspect of the memory or the emotional aspect of the memory as deeply as the visual images associated with that memory, the person (now an adult) may be easily triggered by a smell. He might be innocently walking down a grocery store aisle with no conscious awareness of any past abuse, and then smell the same cologne that the childhood abuser used to wear. The scent can be really unpleasant, causing nausea or even an anxiety attack.
The smell of the cologne brings back the terror (the emotional aspect) of the memory, but because the person doesn’t consciously recall the whole memory, he doesn’t recognize the trigger. The wave of nausea or panic seems to have come out of the blue, and because the reaction seems completely random, the person might think he or she is going crazy.
It serves the mind to dissociate when it experiences something traumatic. Let me explain this concept because it is important to understanding the Completion Process. A dissociative state is a psychological state when someone separates from an experience. In this way, dissociation is a defense mechanism or coping mechanism that enables us to avoid unpleasant experiences. There are mild and severe forms of it.
Dissociation can be seen on a spectrum the same way that trauma can. At the mildest end of dissociation, a person could simply daydream instead of focusing on what they are doing or experiencing in the moment. Or a person might go numb. At the severe end of the dissociation spectrum, a person might completely detach from reality and start to experience periods of time when they lose a sense of identity or create new identities. This is sometimes seen when someone has experienced ritual abuse, sexual abuse, or the ravages of war.
Now we understand that when dissociation is viewed on a spectrum, on one side you might have a person rejecting their feelings of anger, and on the other side, you might have a person separating from their entire identity in order to escape a horrific event. Any kind of dissociation creates a split within the person, between their conscious self and their subconscious self. If dissociation happens frequently, we will have many splits within ourselves.
By dissociating from an experience, you push it out of your awareness so you don’t have to endure the pain or discomfort of the feelings associated with the event. It also serves the mind because it prioritizes survival—not just physical survival, but also mental and emotional survival. If you were a small child dependent upon someone who was abusing you, you would have no choice but to remain attached to that person.
In essence, the cognitive dissonance associated with “living with the monster” is so great that you actually could not go on living in the atmosphere of that much terror. So, by suppressing the memory of the abuse, you maintain your attachment to the adult who is abusing you and thus ensure your survival.
As you work through regression therapy, you may well recover many memories you have forgotten and additional details about memories you already consciously remember. Some of these memories may not challenge your sense of reality or personal narrative.
Cult groups, such as the one that I, myself was inducted into in my youth intentionally program people to suppress memory, because it is a natural function of the brain. If suppressed memory was not a reality, groups like this could not and therefore would not include this style of programming in their practice.
When we suppress something, it doesn’t disappear. It just fades from our awareness. To acknowledge the suppressed memory, you will bring up the same fear of rejection that you suppressed earlier in your life, and you may well feel like you are going to die. And if the memories that arise challenge your reality or personal narrative, instead of feeling relieved, you will most likely feel complete self-doubt. At first, you will not know if those memories are real or not. And if you share these memories with people whose sense of reality is challenged by these memories, or whom directly want you to have forgotten them, you can expect serious resistance. You can expect for people to not believe you and turn against you and all those who participated in your regression therapy, most especially the therapist himself or herself.
Everyone who was ever socialized (which is all of us) went through this process of splitting themselves into parts. We grow up with some parts of the self that are owned and other parts that are rejected. This self-rejection is the birth of self-hate. The emptiness that we feel is the result of those rejected (and therefore suppressed) parts of ourselves, including memories. Your soul wants only one thing and that is to make you whole again.
As you proceed through life, you’ll be provided with every opportunity to become whole again. But in order to return to wholeness, you need to see and accept the aspects of yourself that were rejected and suppressed along the way. I know firsthand that this is incredibly painful. Self-awareness doesn’t come naturally to those who avoid pain because, to become aware of those lost aspects, you must stop trying to escape the emptiness within you where those missing parts should be.
But I’m going to tell you boldly today that suppressed memory is reality of our human minds and that by not accepting this, we are doing a great deal of damage to ourselves as well as to other people who need us to acknowledge that this is a reality.