Sleep is obviously important. We all know how much better we function when we’ve had a good night’s sleep. One of the reasons for this is that when we sleep well, we process the previous day’s events and file them away tidily, out of the Limbic System. Previous day’s events tagged with emotions and sensations move into the Pre-Frontal Cortex. It’s here they lose that rawness and immediacy.
When we experience something traumatic, the Limbic System holds onto it for two reasons. Firstly, for our survival, it wants to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again. And so it holds onto it by not allowing it to be processed. But not only does it hold on to it visually, it holds on to the emotions, the sounds, the smells and all the potential “what-ifs” of that traumatic event.
And secondly, traumas are more often than not, too big to be processed during a night’s sleep. And because of that, they get stuck, causing a log-jam, preventing those smaller, day-to-day events from getting processed. And as a result of the trauma, not only do all the memories and sensations of it remain fresh and raw, so too do those simpler day-to-day events.
And this often causes a downward spiral into anxiety, depression or anger. In fact, many instances of depression or anxiety are the direct result of somebody experiencing a trauma of some sort.
PTSD is the Limbic System doing a good job at pattern matching the trauma. But because of its scattergun approach, what it selects to match the trauma to, can often be well wide of the mark.
The classic example is the war veteran suffering the trauma of losing colleagues in an explosion. Returning to civilian life and reacting to the sound of fireworks or a car back-firing as if it were a life-or-death situation.
But not all traumas are as clearly delineated as that. And people can feel guilty categorising their own traumatic experience in the same bracket. Nevertheless, the mental health effects on the more domestically traumatised can be just as debilitating. I define trauma as any life-threatening incident that, however long ago it happened, still feels raw and continues to negatively affect the emotions, reactions and the decision-making of that person. The traumatised person is usually thought of as the one directly involved but they can just as easily be a witness to or a first-responder to the events. Here is a list of just some of these. Road traffic accidents, rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, street violence, medical trauma, armed assaults burglary, bullying, plane or train crashes, people who have been trafficked, as well as natural disasters like fires, floods and extreme weather.
Memories can’t be removed using hypnosis (nor would it be ethical to try to do so). But however complex or deeply engrained the trauma feels, or from however long ago it was experienced, there is a fairly simple, therapeutic technique called a Rewind that can process the trauma so that it moves from the Limbic System and is filed away. In effect, the trauma becomes more like a distant memory, with all the emotions and sensations that were connected to it, snipped. A memory however, that can still be accessed should you choose to, just like any other distant memory.