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Caroline Wright's picture

Repressed Memories

I've been reading about emotion, especially fear, and how it affects memory. There are two types of memory: explicit, which deals with conscious thought, and implicit, which deals with subconscious thought. You brain creates implicit memories of details in an experience that you don't consciously observe, or things like feelings, scents, or even sounds that occur during an event. When your body is undergoing any type of "flight or fight" response, levels of certain hormones or proteins in crease in your body that encourage consolidation of these fear memories. Where it gets interesting is when this idea is applied to people who have, for example, suffered some type of abuse at a young age. Obviously there is a high amount of emotion and fear that is going on during these events, but the strange part is that sometimes the response is SO strong that the memory is actually repressed. Often these people don't remember the event occurring at all until a later point in their life when they heard a certain sound or smell a certain smell or feel a certain feeling that was stored during the time of the incident and causes the memories to come flooding back to them. It is said that perhaps during these types of events, especially if they were repeated, one's brain can shut down in a sort of self-preservation response which might account for the lack of explicit memory in these cases. The whole idea of these repressed memories is very controversial and it is hard to discern who is really experiencing them and who is not. However, the idea remains that when this happens, a person's brain is changing their reality. If they had never experienced that "trigger" that caused them to rush back to the moment in the past, they would never have known about it, perhaps never have known why they have always been depressed or had some sort of relationship issue. The brain makes choices about what it wants to remember and what it doesn't all on its own, with out the conscious control of the person themselves. It's almost as if our reality of a situation is in a locked box inside the brain itself.


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