A Study in Trauma and Somatic Memory
A Two-Day Workshop with Dr Janina Fisher PhD
Recorded Saturday 13 and 20 June 2020
It is not the traumatic events that haunt survivors for decades afterward. It is the impact or legacy of those events in the form of emotional, body and behavioural memories.
Janina Fisher, PhD
In this workshop, we will look at how the neuroscience and attachment research of the past twenty years has transformed our notions of “memory”. We now know that “the body keeps the score,” that our most painful experiences are less often remembered than encoded in wordless somatic and emotional memories.READ MORE...
The body, Janina will propose, also “remembers” the habits of responding that helped us survive painful experiences, even when the reactions are no longer adaptive. Though none of these implicit nonverbal memories can be retrieved voluntarily, they are easily evoked by the subtlest reminders of the past: we suddenly feel frightened, ashamed, enraged, impulsive, or numb without any subjective sense that we are remembering.
Participants at this seminar will learn a new model for understanding memory that focuses less on events and more on the legacy of nonverbal implicit memories that keep traumatic and painful past events alive in the body. This new and cutting-edge approach to memory has different goals than earlier methods. Its purpose is to transform implicit memories by evoking new responses that replace feelings of terror and helplessness with a sense of “power back”. In this work we aim to repair feelings of aloneness, inadequacy, and shame so that clients can at long last construct “a healing story” about their lives.
Using interventions adapted from EMDR, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, clinical hypnosis and mindfulness-based therapies, Janina will demonstrate simple, practical interventions for addressing the effects of past experience rather than the events themselves. Underlying this is an assumption that it is less important to know what happened than to know that the trauma is over and we are finally safe.
SPEAKERSDr Janina Fisher, ,
“The Body Keeps the Score”
Brain science has transformed our understanding of what it means to remember trauma by demonstrating what happens when a memory is evoked: areas of the brain dedicated to verbal and autobiographical memory are inhibited while structures in nonverbal areas become highly active, showing increased emotional, perceptual and body memories. We re-experience the feeling of being traumatised without always knowing what events these are linked to; our bodies and emotions remember events for which we have no words or pictures.
What is a Memory?
Implicit emotional and somatic memories evoked by association to past events are not always recognisable as memories as such. With no connection to that event, it is hard to know if we are reacting or remembering. Even more problematic is trauma-related “procedural” memory or memory for function and habit. In a dangerous world, individuals learn automatic ways of surviving and coping without any conscious connection to the events that conditioned them. Helping clients to notice and recognise their implicit memories as part of their story is the first step in recovering from trauma. Without the ability to know what is memory, clients may feel as afraid or ashamed in their present-day lives as they were in the past.
Transforming One’s Relationship to a Traumatic Past
Cutting edge research and treatment approaches focus on how the brain and body hold the aftermath of trauma and neglect. If the “body keeps the score”, then we must include the body and the nervous system in talking therapy treatments and if the implicit memories are what activate post-traumatic responses we must somehow address them. Where the traumatic past poisons relationships, the ability to function or the ability to sleep through the night, the client must be helped to transform their experience in those arenas. Using interventions drawn from Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, EMDR, Internal Family Systems and clinical hypnosis, we will consider how implicit memories can be addressed and resolved.
A Repair Model, not a Remembering Model
It is not the traumatic events that haunt survivors for decades afterward. It is the impact or legacy of those events in the form of emotional, body and behavioural memories. Addressing those events gives the client a perspective or context, but it doesn’t fundamentally change the implicit memories or their impact on the client’s ongoing life. A repair model focuses on counteracting the traumatic past by resolving the body and emotional memories, transforming habitual survival strategies, and facilitating new experiences that change their relationship to what happened and to how they survived.