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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 October 17, 2019

    How to Spend More Quality Time with Your Partner

    How to Spend More Quality Time with Your Partner

    You see your partner every single day. They are the first person you talk to in the morning and the last person you kiss goodnight.

    But does seeing each other day in and day out equal a healthy relationship? Not necessarily.

    Spending quality time with your partner is the best way to ensure your relationship stays healthy and strong. This means going above and beyond sitting together while you watch Netflix or going out for the occasional dinner. You deserve more from your relationship – and so does your spouse!

    What does quality time mean? It means spending time with your spouse without interruption. It’s a chance for you to come together and talk. Communication will build emotional intimacy and trust.

    Quality time is also about expressing love in a physical way. Not sex, necessarily (but that’s great, too!) but through hand-holding, cuddling, caressing, and tickling. Studies show that these displays of affection will boost partner satisfaction.[1]

    So how do you spend quality time with your partner? Here are 13 relationship tips on making the most out of your time with your partner.

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    1. Recognize the Signs

    If you want a healthy relationship, you have to learn how to recognize the signs that you need to spend more quality time together.

    Some telltale signs include:

    • You’re always on your phones.
    • You value friendships or hobbies over quality time with your spouse.
    • You aren’t together during important events.
    • You are arguing more often or lack connection.
    • You don’t make plans or date nights.
    • You’re not happy.

    If you are experiencing any of these relationship symptoms, know that quality time together can reverse the negative effects of the signs above.

    2. Try New Things Together

    Have you ever wanted to learn how to play an instrument or speak another language? How about skydive or ballroom dance?

    Instead of viewing these as solo hobbies and interests, why not involve your partner?

    Trying new activities together builds healthy relationships because it encourages spouses to rely on one another for emotional and physical support.

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    Shared hobbies also promote marital friendship, and the Journal of Happiness Studies found that marital satisfaction was twice as high for couples who viewed each other as best friends.[2]

    3. Schedule in Tech-Free Time

    Your phone is a great way to listen to music, watch videos, and keep up-to-date with friends and family. But is your phone good for your relationship?

    Many couples phone snub, or ‘phub’, one another. Studies show that phubbing can lower relationship satisfaction and increase one’s chances of depression.[3]

    Reduce those chances by removing distractions when spending quality time together and showing your partner they have your full attention.

    4. Hit the Gym as a Couple

    One way you can spend more time together as a couple is by becoming workout partners. Studies show that couples are more likely to stay with their exercise routine if they work out together.[4] Couples also work out harder than they would solo. One study found that 95 percent of couples who work out together maintained weight loss compares to the 66 percent of singles who did.[5]

    Join a gym, do at-home couples’ workouts, try couples yoga, hit the hiking trails, or get your bikes out. No matter which way you choose to exercise, these healthy activities can promote a healthy relationship.

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    5. Cook Meals Together

    Pop open a bottle of wine or put some romantic music on while you get busy – in the kitchen, of course!

    One of the best relationship tips for spending quality time together when you both have busy schedules is to cook meals together.[6]

    Spice things up and try and prepare a four-course meal or a fancy French dish together. Not only is this a fun way to spend your time together, but it also promotes teamwork.

    If all goes well, you’ll have a romantic date night meal at home that you prepared with your four hands. And if the food didn’t turn out the way you’d hoped, you are guaranteed to have a laugh and create new memories together.

    6. Have a Regular Date Night

    Couples experience a greater sense of happiness and less stress when they are spending quality time together.[7] One of the biggest relationship tips for a healthy partnership is to include a date night in your weekly routine.

    The National Marriage Project found that having a weekly date night can make your relationship seem more exciting and helps prevent relationship boredom.[8] It also lowers the probability of divorce, improves your sex life, and increases healthy communication.

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    Some great ideas for what to do on your date night include:

    • Have a movie marathon – Gather up your favorite flicks and cuddle up on the couch.
    • Play games together – Cards, board games, video games, and other creative outlets are a fun way to spend quality time together.
    • Recreate your first date – Go back to that restaurant and order the same meal you did when you first got together. You can spice up your evening by pretending you’re strangers meeting for the first time and see how sexy the night gets.
    • Plan a weekend getaway – There’s nothing better than traveling with the one you love.
    • Dinner and a movie – A classic!
    • Try a new restaurant – Make it your mission to rate and try all of the Mexican restaurants/Irish pubs/Italian trattorias in your area.
    • Have a long sex session – Intimacy promotes the release of the oxytocin hormone which is responsible for a myriad of great feelings.[9]

    Here’re even more date night ideas for your reference: 50 Unique and Really Fun Date Ideas for Couples

    Final Thoughts

    The benefits of spending quality time together are endless. Here are just some of the ways it can contribute to a healthy relationship:

    • Improves emotional and physical intimacy
    • Lowers divorce rates
    • Improves communication
    • Reduces marital boredom
    • Bonds couples closer
    • Improves friendship
    • Boosts health
    • Reduces stress

    These are all excellent reasons to start making date night a regular part of your week.

    It’s easy to have a healthy relationship when you set aside dedicated time to share with your spouse. Try new things together, make your spouse your workout buddy, and look for innovative ways to be close and connected.

    These relationship tips will bring great benefits to your marriage.

    Featured photo credit: Allen Taylor via unsplash.com

    Reference

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