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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Memory


We are the summation of all our memories. Every experience helps to shape who we will become as we remember and process the experience. Fortunately most of us don’t remember every single detail of every day but our subconscious records the experience whether our conscious minds recall it or not. In every moment, we are bombarded with billions of pieces of data but our conscious minds can only process about 2,000 of them. These 2,000 bits then are what we are aware of and this is how our awareness shapes our lives. This is also why it is important to notice what you put your awareness on…and even what you are choosing to ignore.

After my last posting on “Wounds”, a reader said the following: “The unfortunate thing is that these hurts and wounds become more self-inflicted and assisted by insensitive comments from others. They turn into pain that keeps the memory fresh in the mind.”  He is correct in that these old wounds can cause us to become our own judge, jury and executioner. When we accept other people’s opinions of who we are, we use that as ammunition to punish ourselves for not meeting someone else’s definition of who we should be.

Once we have a wound firmly in place even the slightest reference to something associated with it can send us into pattern. We then deepen the wound through self-inflicted pain because of the issue. For example when I was ridiculed for my haircut as a child, I became hypersensitive to anything having to do with my hair. Thinking of hair made me think that my hair wasn’t “normal” and I would become “triggered” by it. I would get embarrassed, angry, bitchy, ashamed, or any number of less-than-loving responses would result. More often than not I would then project the hurt from that triggered response onto someone else as a way to try and feel better about myself. That process NEVER works despite its repeated and defensive use. We can never feel better about ourselves by trying to make others feel worse about themselves.


STORING MEMORIES

At the root of the sensitivity is what is known as an “active memory”. When the memory of something is laid down in our brains, any emotional component to the experience is connected to the memory as well. There is no magical recorder in our heads that just tracks and stores every sequential event in our lives and stores it for future playback. Instead there are neural pathways which are formed that connect the memory to emotions associated with it. We may have tons of memories which are ultimately connected to the emotion of sadness but the memory itself doesn’t have sadness as a direct component of the event. Sadness was our emotional response to the event itself and so our brains connected the memory of the event to sadness.

If you think of the brain as looking similar to the picture you can begin to understand how memories are formed. Think of each of the spots, a neuron, as a single piece of data. Our brains are incredibly powerful machines which are also incredibly efficient. So your brain might have one of those spots as the location for “sadness”, another one for “anger” and another one for “love”. The brain only needs to store that emotion in one place. Then when it stores the other components of a memory, it simply connects that group of neurons to the spot for the associated emotion. Therefore we will have tons of individual memory paths which are all connected to that single emotional neuron for sadness. A memory will actually comprise a collection of countless neurons (location, age, people involved, environmental data, emotional response, etc.) which are connected via neural pathways. Therefore one memory of something sad can often trigger memories of other times when sadness occurred because they are all connected via that one neuron for sadness.

This is of course a very simplified explanation of an incredibly complex function of our brain but I hope it will help you to have an idea of how memory is stored. Given this format, “active memories” are those which are directly connected to neurons which trigger the emotional response within our bodies associated with the emotion. An “inactive memory” is one which is not associated with any particular emotion. These types of memories are typically forgotten rather quickly or are simply memories of places we’ve been, things we’ve seen or actions that we’ve done and that don’t elicit any emotional response.


MAKING AND BREAKING CONNECTIONS

For example, I remember walking around my neighborhood but I have no real emotional charge associated with that so therefore walking down my street is easy for me to do. Of course if one particular house has a big dog that barks at and scares me, I will consciously or unconsciously avoid walking past that house in the future. My brain associates that house with fear and I avoid the house. Maybe to avoid the house I have to take a different street and that then becomes my habit because it is safe. Years later I may start to walk down that street and suddenly feel fear without consciously knowing why. The dog may be dead now or the people moved but I still associate that house (and street) with the emotion of fear.

This is an example of living in the past because I’m avoiding a street in the present moment because of a negative past experience. If I bring my consciousness into the present moment however I can begin to shift that. I sense “fear” and rather than reacting to it and running I will be able to respond and potentially go into the fear. I can then choose to walk past the house and see that now it has beautiful flowers which I love, an adorable puppy or someone I might meet who will become a dear friend. The potential for joy and healing lies only in the present moment.

This act of going into the fear (which I spoke of in the “Wounds” entry) is where healing resides for me. By recognizing that my emotional response was triggered by past events and not present experiences, my brain will begin to form new neural pathways that associate this street and house with “love” or “friendship”. Ultimately the street is just a street but it is my emotional coloring of the street (based upon my past experiences and memory) that changes the experience for me. Eventually my brain will drop the connection to “fear” because no energy goes into feeding that neural pathway since my focus is now on the love that I feel associated with that house. I may always remember that a scary dog used to live there but the active component of the memory isn’t there any longer.

This is how it is with active memories of emotional wounds. Unfortunately they can’t be cleared as easily as choosing to walk down a street but they can be cleared. Awareness of the issue is the first step in that clearing process and then it becomes a matter of finding a technique or healing practitioner to help you discharge the active component of the memory. Just like I mentioned in the “Wounds” entry however, it is important to get to the core issue however and not only address one of the surface symptoms.


GETTING HELP

There are a variety of healing techniques and modalities that are incredibly effective and practitioners are available in most every part of the country and certainly in most larger cities if not all cities. I will mention a few techniques that I am familiar with and I recommend that you surf the web for more info on any of these which resonate with you. That search will undoubtedly lead you to the technique that is exactly right for you so just follow your heart for choosing the right technique and if necessary the right practitioner. Once you think you have the practitioner, ask lots of questions and trust your instincts.

REIKI

Reiki is a technique which I’ve been a practitioner of for over 10 years. It is really great for quickly addressing physical issues but also for getting to the underlying mental, emotional or spiritual issue. It’s simple and effective but very subtle. It initially helps to relax the entire body and clear the mind. From this relaxed place, your spirit is able to communicate with you more easily because you are able to sense and know it more clearly. Reiki helps to quiet the mental chatter and allow your inner guidance to emerge. This guidance will often reveal the true nature and core of the issue you are working on.

Many times when we address a situation in our lives which we think is current such as a failing relationship, our spirits will reveal that the core issue is one which actually began in early childhood and continues to replay itself in your life. The beauty of life is that it will present you with many opportunities to look at your issues through many different experiences. Until you identify, address and heal the core issue, you will continue to see it play out time and time again. Leaving one situation where the problem is manifesting won’t fix the problem; it will only shift the resulting symptoms. For example if your core issue is that you don’t respect and maintain your boundaries, you will continue to attract relationships where those boundaries will continually be violated and which will ultimately force you to look at the issue. If you’ve ever heard yourself say “why do I keep attracting (losers/abusers/alcoholics/immature partners/psychos/etc)” you know that one of your core issues is trying to get your attention. Changing relationships won’t fix it.


BODYTALK

Another technique that I practice is BodyTalk. While this system is great for a addressing a large number of issues, one particular component that I think is incredibly effective is the one used for deactivating unconscious beliefs and active memories. Often times there are limiting beliefs that we have adapted in order to help us survive in a situation or that seemed right based upon our limited understanding of life. These surface beliefs are often so strong that they completely obscure the real issue and so they need to be dealt with first.

Let’s say for example that you are struggling with weight issues. Over the years you may have adopted the belief that “food is my only true friend” because it is always there and helps soothe the pain and so you over-consume it. In truth the over-consumption of food is contributing to the problem and so your belief holds you in an unhealthy relationship with food. Clearing that unconscious belief can then allow you to see that eating doesn’t fix any problem, it only masks it. From that place you can then begin to see the underlying issues which are where the real problem is but sometimes you have to get the limiting beliefs out of the way to see them. BodyTalk is great for directly communicating with your unconscious mind to tell it to dissolve that neural pathway that connects food with the emotion of love.


EFT

Another amazingly simple technique which you can learn to do on yourself is called Emotional Freedom Technique. EFT is specifically for disengaging active memories and limiting beliefs which are holding you back. It is a simple technique which involves tapping specific points in a specific sequence on your body. This process has the effect of neutralizing the powerful emotional component of an issue within your brain. The beauty of this system is that there are manuals available on the web that you can download for free and learn to use the technique on yourself.  Once you learn the sequence of the tapping, you can neutralize these issues in less than two minutes. The key to success with this technique is to ensure that you are addressing the core issue and not just the surface symptom.

It is important to note here however that the manual that you can download is only one small part to the EFT process. There are trained EFT providers who can take this process and really help you do some deep and intense healing. Yes, the manual can help you slog through the surface issues and even some deeper ones but it may not be able to take you all the way to full healing. If you try the process and it resonates with you, you might want to seek an EFT therapist and work with them on the deeper issues. They can help you work past the surface issues and fully heal the true core issue.

This technique is great for releasing some core issues but it is also just as effective for getting rid of those little tender spots that we have. Through our past wounds, we all have those issues which we can be very sensitive about. Anytime someone brings a specific topic up, you can feel emotions start to arise such as shame, embarrassment, anger, or resentment. By being aware of these emotions through bringing your consciousness into more and more of your life, you can simply notice that these emotions arise without reacting to them. Once you notice a particular emotional response this way, you can then use the EFT method and disconnect that neural pathway which associates the emotion and the topic.

Once the emotional component is neutralized, you may then be able to understand what the core issue is beneath it. In the example with my hair, it was just a surface issue, the core issue for me was one of self-confidence. I couldn’t get to it however because I couldn’t get past the sensitivity issue to my hair. Talk of my hair triggered a memory of me feeling very insecure and being emotionally wounded and so my defense was to become angry or bitchy to protect the wound. Simply discharging my sensitivity to people talking about my hair would not have really healed my true core issue. By not becoming triggered by it however I could then begin to see that I was basing my self-worth on someone else’s judgments of me. That is what the real core issue was for me.


OUR TRUE CORE

On my journey I have learned that beneath it all, I am perfect and divine because I am an individuated piece of the Divine, Source, or God. And so are you! When I self reference against that ultimate perfection through the awareness of Unity Consciousness, I have no need to become defensive, play small or weak, or in any way feel inferior. Those feelings belong to my egoic human self and are all based upon self-judgment, not self love. As such they are not in alignment with my true nature and so they have no place in my life and do not serve to further my evolution.

There are a huge number of healing modalities available and finding the one that works best for you and your issue can seem daunting. That should not be used as an excuse not to work on yourself and heal your issues however. Doing nothing will ensure that you do not change, heal or grow. Yes, it takes time and effort to do this inner work but we can find the time by making small changes in our lives. By removing the time wasters and attention distracters such as television, music, video games, web surfing, drugs or porn you will find the extra time and willingness to do the work. All of these things are not inherently bad but they have to be kept under control rather than being used as a way to prevent us from doing the work which will help us become better humans. As we grow and become more healed, we make life easier for those around us and provide a template for them to want to grow and heal as well. This ripple effect contributes to the collective whole of humanity and helps us to evolve through the awareness of this Oneness.


I invite you to ask yourself:
-      “What are my hot buttons?”
-      “Am I willing to heal those issues?”