Repressed memories are those thoughts that are blocked from conscious experience due to extreme stress or trauma. When one undergoes a significant degree of anxiety or distress, their nervous system turns hyperactive and overcomes their brain. The brain is overwhelmed by a flood of complex emotions and a reaction caused by a sympathetic nervous system. This essay will discuss factors that cause repressed memories, possible mechanisms associated with the disorder, long-term effects, and several recovery methods.
Causes of Repressed Memories
The source of repressed memories is a subject to significant child differences. The popular theme associated with this disorder is the aspect of extreme stress or trauma. When this feature intensifies, neurological adjustments (resulting in repression) are thought to help maintain survival (Health, 2020). The above occurrence may be caused by a variety of circumstances, including abuse. Many who have endured trauma, whether physical, psychological, or sexual, are vulnerable to repressed memories. Abuse, including being mistreated by a parent, guardian, or an isolated incident, may be persistent. The suffering often affects a child’s psychological coping capacity in any respect, and one of the only ways of dealing with it is to force the memory out of conscious perception.
Physical abuse can obscure from memory all recollections of the incident. It also leaves psychological marks, but the psychological wounds are permanent. Physical violence can be ongoing or can still be an occasional incident that progresses to the repression of the abusive experiences. Additionally, psychological violence could include verbal abuse or persistent harassment, which poses a risk of mental illness (Saroyan, 2015). It is worth noting that one child may not be harmed to the same level as the other. To restrain reminders of these psychological attacks, some children actively “shut down” mentally and re-organize their brains, such that they sometimes forget what they had encountered, until later on when they grow to be adults. Alternatively, sexual abuse, such as rape, also causes the victim to feel depressed and humiliated to an extent that it represses all memories of trauma. This repression occurs because they cannot handle their past and ultimately bury the trauma experiences under their conscience.
With any loss of a loved one comes grief, a natural process that is the human way of emotional healing. But all too often, this natural occurrence is delayed or distracted, or pushed away. Repressed memories may be encountered as a result of extreme grief (Saroyan, 2015). For instance, where someone loses a close relative or a partner can make someone feel traumatized until they cannot function normally. Subsequently, the memories accompanying the grief are hidden under conscious experience and are “repressed.” For children, the experience caused by the loss is extremely overwhelming to the extent of making the child withdraw from any social interaction.
Many that have experienced significant pressure caused by stress may realize that it accumulates, approaches the peak, and inevitably leads to a nervous breakdown. There may be a few traumatic incidents that cause a nervous breakdown, but in many other situations, they may be the product of poor self-care (Kunst, Saan, Bollen, & Kuijpers, 2017). Irrespective of the trigger of one’s high stress and mental breakdown, one might find that memories may be lost due to a fight-or-flight reaction.
Long Term effects of Repressed Memories
Children who have experienced violence are more likely to experience reduced educational achievement and are addicted to drugs and alcohol. They also develop long-term issues with physical and mental well-being, including depression. Childhood abuse also affects an individual’s social and emotional development, as it makes it difficult for the victim to connect and build social networks. As a result, the person tends to lead a lonely and secluded life. Consequently, they appear to trust no one and they create a pessimistic attitude towards society (Saroyan, 2015). Most of them resort to criminal life, as they ‘seek to revenge’ the evils that were committed to them in their childhood.
Recovery from Repressed Memories
It is always difficult to recover from repressed memories, its recovery should be pursued only when the victim can handle the memories and emotions that follow those experiences. Only under the guidance of a highly qualified psychotherapist or counselor (who can interact with the victim and understand their condition) should the procedure be attempted (Saroyan, 2015). While the individual may recover on their own, they may not be capable of managing emotional upheavals that might occur concurrently. In most instances, repressed memories can cause significant emotional reactions. Therefore, the survivor should take some time to develop a healthy relationship with their healthcare attendant before heading directly into the recovery process.
Given that one is on the trajectory of finding repressed memories and recovering from a traumatic incident, one might need some social support. If the victim has some close friends, relatives, and family whom they can trust, they might need some additional social support networks during this period (Health, 2020). It helps if they can speak to them about the repressed memories they have had. Even though social support could never substitute a professional psychotherapist, it may act as a valuable supplement.
Several lessons have to be learned from the above-gathered information. It is only logical to conclude that children are more affected by these mental disorders because of their vulnerability. In addition, the core of the debate on repressed memories of any type of abuse during one’s childhood leads to the assumption that both real and genuine memories from a person’s past and fabricated memories exist. Therefore, a repressed memory condition is a severe disorder that can cause permanent damage to one’s well-being and should be handled with a professional and at the earliest time possible.
Health, M. (2020). Repressed memories: Causes, mechanisms, & coping strategies. Web.
Kunst, M., Saan, M., Bollen, L., & Kuijpers, K. (2017). Secondary traumatic stress and secondary posttraumatic growth in a sample of Dutch police family liaison officers. Stress And Health, 33(5), 570–577. Web.
Saroyan, J. (2015). Suppressed and repressed memories among armenian genocide survivors. Peace Review, 27(2), 237–243. Web.