For many survivors memories of childhood abuse are confusing, non-linear, and usually not very complete. Understanding a little more about how memory works – especially traumatic memory – may help you work through your own memories. In this article published in Therapy Today (subscription only so I hope they’ll forgive me for my worthy theft!) Paolo Borella explains the mechanisms underlying repressed and recovered memories.
If you consider that at the time your memories were forming you may not have had the language to describe what was happening to you or the desire to keep that harmful memory, perhaps now you can give yourself a break for not remembering with perfect clarity. Imagine you were in an earthquake where many people died…right afterward people might say “Wasn’t that a terrible earthquake?” and “You were so brave for making it!” They would tell you the name of that event and acknowledge that you are alive. Most likely that is not how your childhood was. The fact that it wasn’t like that is so common in our community that doctors write whole books about it…which I found reassuring!
Stressful experiences such as childhood sexual abuse are so overwhelming and traumatic that the memories hide like shadows in the brain.