Forgetting the horrors of the past: repressed memories

Today’s blog post was inspired by a piece of poetry from an abuse survivor titled I wasn’t supposed to remember.

Breaking the silence surrounding child abuse has been shown to be fundamental to the healing of abuse survivors, and allows the painful memories to be revisited and processed within the mind. Processing trauma memories prevents the continuing intrusive symptoms such as flashbacks which form a core element of posttraumatic stress disorder.

Judith Lewis Herman, author of Trauma and Recovery, and prominent researcher into Complex PTSD tell us:

“The ORDINARY RESPONSE TO ATROCITIES is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable.

“The ORDINARY RESPONSE TO ATROCITIES is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable.

she goes on to say:

Atrocities, however, refuse to be buried. Equally as powerful as the desire to deny atrocities is the conviction that denial does not work. Folk wisdom is filled with ghosts who refuse to rest in their graves until their stories are told. Murder will out. Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims.

The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma. People who have survived atrocities often tell their stories in a highly emotional, contradictory, and fragmented manner that undermines their credibility and thereby serves the twin imperatives of truth-telling and secrecy. When the truth is finally recognized, survivors can begin their recovery. But far too often secrecy prevails, and the story of the traumatic event surfaces not as a verbal narrative but as a symptom.

The psychological distress symptoms of traumatized people simultaneously call attention to the existence of an unspeakable secret and deflect attention from it. This is most apparent in the way traumatized people alternate between feeling numb and reliving the event. The dialectic of trauma gives rise to complicated, sometimes uncanny alterations of consciousness, which George Orwell, one of the committed truth-tellers of our century, called “doublethink,” and which mental health professionals, searching for calm, precise language, call dissociation It results in protean, dramatic, and often bizarre symptoms of hysteria which Feud recognized a century ago as disguised communications about sexual abuse in childhood. . . .”

Our own personal history is important to use – whether it includes trauma or not.

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.

What reminders do we use as a society to prevent the experiences of the past repeating themselves?

blog war photos

Memorial day and the mass graves will remain long after the last soldiers from World War II have died. Each memorial day is a reminder not just of the recent deaths and injured servicemen and women, but of the mass graves from those who died many decades ago.

We are now have Laws against physical assault and abuse, and almost all countries in the world have child protection services.

free to copy & remix

Child abuse awareness ribbon

 

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10 thoughts on “Forgetting the horrors of the past: repressed memories

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