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Why Time Doesn’t Heal All Wounds

Why Time Doesn’t Heal All Wounds


    (Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Francine Shapiro, PhD, author of Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy. Shapiro is a senior research fellow at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, director of the EMDR Institute, and founder of the non-profit EMDR-Humanitarian Assistance Programs. As the originator of EMDR, she is a recipient of the International Sigmund Freud Award for Psychotherapy of the City of Vienna, the American Psychological Association Trauma Psychology Division Award for Outstanding Contributions to Practice in Trauma Psychology, and the Distinguished Scientific Achievement in Psychology Award, from the California Psychological Association. As a result of her work, over 70,000 clinicians have treated millions of people during the past 20 years. For more information please visit http://www.emdr.com)

    If we cut ourselves, unless there is an obstacle, we tend to heal. If we remove the block, the body goes back to healing. That’s why we’re willing, to let ourselves be cut open during surgery. We expect incisions to heal.

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    The brain is part of the body. In addition to the millions of memory networks I’ve just described, we all have hardwired into our brains a mechanism — an information processing system — for healing. It is geared to take any sort of emotional turmoil to a level of mental health or what I call a level of adaptive resolution. This means a resolution that include the useful information that allows us to be more fit for survival in our lives. The information processing system is meant to make connections to what is useful, and let go of the rest.

    Here’s how it works: Imagine that you’ve had an argument with a coworker. You can feel upset, angry or fearful with all the physical reactions that go along with these different emotions. You can also have negative thoughts about the person and yourself. You might imagine how you’d like to exact revenge, but let’s hope you resist those behaviors; among other things they would probably get you fired. So you walk away. You think about it. You talk about it. You go to sleep and maybe dream about it. And the next day you might not feel so bad. You’ve basically “digested” the experience and now have a better sense of what to do. That’s the brain’s information processing system taking a disturbing experience and allowing learning to take place. Much of it goes on during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Scientists believe that during this stage of sleep the brain processes wishes, survival information and the learning that took place that day. Basically, whatever is important to us. The bottom line is that the brain is hardwired to do that.

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    After uninterrupted information processing, the memory of the argument has generally linked up with more useful information already stored in your brain. This can include past experiences you’ve had with this coworker and others. You may now be able to say, “Oh, that’s just the way John is. I’ve handled something like this before with him, and it came out fine.” As these other memories link up with the current disturbing incident, your experience of the event changes. You learn what is useful from the argument and your brain lets go of what’s not. Because the negative feelings and the self-talk are no longer useful, they’re gone. But what you needed to learn remains, and now your brain stores the memory of the event in a form where it is able to successfully guide you in the future.

    As a result, you have a better sense of what you’re supposed to do. You can talk to your coworker without the intense emotional turmoil you had the day before. That’s the brain’s adaptive information processing system taking a disturbing experience and allowing learning to take place. It’s doing just what it’s geared to do.

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    Sadly, disturbing experiences, whether major traumas or other kinds of upsetting events, can overwhelm the system. When that happens, the intense emotional and physical disturbance caused by the situation prevents the information processing system from making the internal connections needed to take it to a resolution. Instead, the memory of the situation becomes stored in the brain as you experienced it. What you saw and felt, the image, the emotions, the physical sensations and the thoughts become encoded in memory in their original, unprocessed form. So, whenever you see the coworker you argued with, rather than being able to have a calm chat, the anger or fear comes flooding back. You may try to manage your feelings out of self-preservation, but whenever the person appears, your distress goes up.

    When reactions such as these refuse to go away in the present, it’s often because they are also linking into unprocessed memories from the past. These unconscious connections occur automatically. For instance, your immediate dislike of a person you just met may come from memories of someone in some way similar who hurt you before. Also, consider the case of a woman who was raped. Years later, she is in bed with someone she knows is a very loving partner. But when he touches her in a certain way, her emotions and body respond automatically. The terror and feelings of powerlessness she had during the rape flood her. If the information processing system did not function properly after the attack, a touch similar to the rapist’s can link into the memory network and “trigger” the emotions and the physical sensations that are part of that stored unprocessed memory.

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    The disrupted information processing system has stored the memory in isolation — unintegrated within the more general memory networks. It can’t change since it is unable to link up with anything more useful and adaptive. That’s why time doesn’t heal all wounds, and you may still feel anger, resentment, pain, sorrow or a number of other emotions about events that took place years ago. They are frozen in time, and the unprocessed memories can become the foundation for emotional, and some times physical, problems. Even though you might not have had a major trauma in your life, research has shown that other kinds of life experiences can cause the same types of problems. And since the memory connections happen automatically, below conscious level, you may have no idea what’s really running your show.

    (Photo credit: MousyBoyWithGlasses via Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0)

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2018

    60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life

    60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life

    Sometimes it’s easier to focus on what we don’t have, rather than what we do have. It’s important to take time out and remember all of the things to be thankful for that many of us take for granted.

      Here you’ll find 60 very solid things to be thankful for in your everyday life. These are great reminders for you to treasure everything you have.

      1. Good Health

      Even if you’re health isn’t great, it could be worse and you likely still have some working parts to be thankful for.

      2. Money in the Bank

      Having just a few coins makes you richer than most people on Earth.

      3. Good Friends

      Often, it’s the quality of friendships, not the quantity.

      4. Freedom of Religion

      Being able to worship whomever and however you want is something many people don’t ever experience.

      5. Your Parents

      Even if they’re dysfunctional, they gave you life.

      6. Weekends

      There’s something magical about weekends.

      7.Having a Partner

      Being in a romantic relationship can teach you so much about the world and yourself.

      8. Pets

      Pets offer one of the best examples of unconditional love.

      9. Learning from Mistakes

      If we never made mistakes, we wouldn’t learn much so it is one of those things we should be thankful for.

      10. Opportunity to Get an Education

      The opportunity to attend school is something many people don’t have.

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      11. Having a Home

      Whether you live in an apartment, a mansion, or a tent, having a place to call home is something to be thankful for.

      12. An Ability to Read

      If you’re reading this right now, you have a lot to be thankful for.

      13. Breathing Fresh Air

      Being able to step outside to breathe in fresh air is a good reminder how many little things we should be thankful for.

      14. A Bed to Sleep

      A bed is one of those things that’s easy to take for granted, until you don’t have one.

      15. Laughter

      Without laughter, the world would be a sad place.

      16. Safety and Security

      Being able to wake up without immense fear frees us up to really live life.

      17. Cars

      Without cars, it would take a lot longer to get our activities done.

      18. Sunshine

      The sun’s warmth can brighten any day.

      19. Time

      Although we often don’t think there’s enough of it, time is something we shouldn’t take for granted.

      20. Clean Water

      Many people on earth lack access to clean water.

      21. Cell Phones

      Cell phones make talking to loved ones easy.

      22. Love

      The world sure would be a different place if we lacked the ability to love.

      23. Books

      Books provide an opportunity to enter another world all from the comfort of your own home.

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      24. Kindness of Strangers

      Never take the kindness of a stranger for granted.

      25. Campfires

      The simplicity of a campfire creates lifelong memories.

      26. Pain

      Without pain, it would be difficulty to appreciate life’s joys.

      27. Art

      The world would be less beautiful if art didn’t exist.

      28. Holidays

      Any reason to celebrate is something we should be thankful for.

      29. Freedom of Speech

      Being able to express your thoughts and feelings freely should never be taken for granted.

      30. Rainbows

      The beauty of a rainbow is unmatched.

      31. Tears

      Sometimes when there are no words to say, tears express how we feel for us.

      32. Waking up Today

      Simply waking up today means you have things to be thankful for.

      33. Indoor Plumbing

      Indoor plumbing not only provides convenience, it spares us from disease.

      34. Wisdom that Comes with Age

      Thankfully, we grow smarter over time.

      35. Mountains

      Mountains provide us with beauty and recreation.

      36. Eyesight

      Being able to see allows us to view the world’s beauty.

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      37. Grocery Stores

      Grocery stores mean we don’t have to spend all of our time getting our own food.

      38. Sunsets

      Sunsets are a reminder that we should enjoy the simple things in life.

      39. Entertainment

      Entertainment gives us a way to relax and enjoy life.

      40. Your Mind

      Being able to think, remember, and solve problems sure makes life easier.

      41. Employment

      Even if you don’t like your job, being employed means someone thought you were special enough to hire.

      42. Diversity

      The world would be a boring place without diversity.

      43. Moon and Stars

      The moon and stars encourage us to dream.

      44. Electricity

      Electricity makes most of our chores efficient.

      45. Air Conditioning

      Staying cool on a hot day is something people wouldn’t have dreamed about in past centuries.

      46. Hearing

      Being able to hear your loved one’s voice is something that not everyone gets to do.

      47. Children

      Watching children laugh, grow, and dream can keep things in perspective.

      48. Ability to Learn

      The ability to learn new things means we have endless potential.

      49. People Willing to Teach

      Whether it’s your grandmother teaching you to knit or your plumber showing you how to prevent future problems, be grateful that others are willing to use their time and talents to teach you something new.

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      50. Oceans

      The sea creatures in the ocean almost seem too mystical to be real.

      51. Modern Medicine

      Without advances in modern medicine, many of us wouldn’t be alive.

      52. Music

      Music brings out new emotions.

      53. Entrepreneurs

      Some of life’s best inventions resulted from an entrepreneur who was willing to take a risk.

      54. Warm Clothing

      On a cold day, there’s nothing more important than warm clothing.

      55. Freedom to Vote

      Being able to have a say in the laws should never be taken for granted.

      56. An Internet Connection

      It’s hard to believe how easy it is to take the internet for granted, seeing how none of us had just a couple of decades ago.

      57. Challenges

      Without challenges in life, we wouldn’t be the people we are now.

      58. Hiking Trails

      Hiking trails give us the chance to enjoy mother’s nature beauty.

      59. Vaccines

      Many of us wouldn’t be alive without today’s vaccinations.

      60. Armed Forces

      Our lives would likely be very different if we didn’t have protection from the armed forces.

      Realizing all the things you should be thankful for is the first step, practicing gratitude is what you should start doing:

      6 Ways To Implement More Gratitude In Your Life

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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