This is the eighth part of a lengthy article by Joseph M. Carver, Ph.D., Psychologist called Emotional Memory Management: Positive Control Over Your Memory. The link to the next segment is included at the close of this segment.
Files and Marriage/Relationships
To solve any problem, a typical marital discussion should not last more than 10 to 15 minutes. If you’re going to buy a car or discuss what to do about Aunt Gladys, it shouldn’t take a three-hour discussion. Discussions that last longer than 15 minutes usually contain files. In discussing whether to visit Aunt Gladys over Christmas, the discussion may start out well at first – then we start pulling files. After three hours of arguing, we find that we have discussed the fact that certain relatives don’t like us, that we don’t like certain relatives, that so and so is the black sheep, and on and on. What began as a business-like conversation has been ruined by files that have been pulled as the discussion continued.
You’ll know a file is pulled because the direction of the discussion will not make sense. We know a file is operating when either the content or mood doesn’t make sense to the discussion at hand.
A teenager who asks permission to go to a drive-in movie and is suddenly met with anger, resentment, accusations, and suspiciousness by the parent – she has run into a severe communication block. Mother or dad has pulled a file from their teen years – a bad file. Again, we always know a file is out because the content or mood doesn’t fit the present situation. We must then remember – you can’t talk to a file. People who argue with the content of a file have as much chance as an individual who argues with the television while a videotape is playing.
Files and Depression
As mentioned, when our brain chemistry changes during depression, bad files are immediately pulled, as many as we will allow. These files will keep pulling until the automatic file-pulling is stopped by medication or treatment, or until we take control.
One particularly bad problem with depression is pulling old files. Again, when we pull an old file we relive the emotion – that’s what’s in the file. We have seen cases where patients have discussed a horrible experience from 15 to 20 years ago stating, “I though I got over it, I guess I didn’t!” Truthfully, they have gotten over that experience – but the file is still powerful. Depressed individuals suffer from the “garbage truck”, that truck-load of horrible files that prompt them to think about childhood trauma/abuse, previous relationships and rejections, and any time they have failed within recollection. Again, the file makes us relive the emotions at that time. Even 20 years beyond the present, if we bring out a horrible file, we will feel horrible.
Clients that are depressed are encouraged not to pay attention to the various files being pulled. Again, when a depressed brain operates on automatic, it pulls nothing but garbage/trash. If you are depressed, be prepared to experience a tremendous amount of “mental garbage.” Please, take no action on that garbage.
Files and Anxiety
We have all heard of the Guru who can change his blood pressure, slow his heart or breathing rate, stop bleeding cuts, or change his brain waves by meditation. As our brain controls these physical reactions/conditions, those experiences are possible with proper brain/thought control. Anxiety consists of both thinking symptoms (worry, fear, dread, anticipation of misfortune, etc) and physical symptoms – actually more physical than thinking! Typical physical manifestations of anxiety include jitteriness, trembling, muscle aches, eyelid twitch, strained facial expression, sweating, heart pounding, dry mouth, clammy hands, upset stomach, frequent urination, poor concentration, and the feeling of having a lump in your throat – just to name a few! What a deal – you receive all the above in just one package – “anxiety”.
Anxiety can be paired with certain events, creating a very strong file that contains both the anxious event (public speaking, air flights, etc,) and the physical reaction as well. When the situation is recognized by the brain – the anxious/trauma file is pulled – and the brain chemicals are released. It’s easy to see why files with anxiety are so powerful – they seem to light up the entire body system from head to toe!
Files and Physical/Mental Trauma
One of the most common situations in which emotional memory files create severe problems is in physical or mental trauma. Many of us have experienced trauma in our life. Of the people living in New York City, 85 percent have been mugged/robbed. Studies suggest that 45 percent of all females have been sexually molested or assaulted in some manner. Trauma, or severe emotional memory, can be created by physical assaults, combat experiences, crime, death of a loved one, viewing severe accidents, surgery, or brush-with-death experiences.
In trauma, the brain not only memorizes everything about the event – including the emotions – but adds the surroundings as well. If we are assaulted in our home, suddenly our home is no longer comfortable due to the memories it produces. A severe automobile accident may prompt people to quit driving completely or develop panic attacks if they near the site of the accident. Trauma Emotional Memory (EM) files are perhaps the strongest emotional files and often create long-lasting phobias or difficulties if not properly handled.
Old Emotional Memory (EM) trauma files are often at the heart of long-standing difficulties. Early sexual trauma, for example, can create poor sexual response/interest that will later affect marriages. Physical assault can produce problems with physical closeness many years later. While such situations are very troublesome, we are reminded that the brain is simply operating on automatic – there are no “positive” files for reference. Correction is often a matter of taking manual control of those situations, creating new files, and “watering down” the old files.
[The next segment continues with Rule: The brain pulls the most recent and most powerful memory first.]