All Memory is Not Created Equal–Positive Memory Seepage

We already know that intrusive thought is associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as other emotional trauma disorders. However, many of the survivors say what is most painful is not necessarily the intrusive thoughts of the bad stuff or even the violence. It’s the intrusive thoughts of all the good times that are really hard to deal with.

Intrusive thoughts are not just bad thoughts or flashbacks. They can be intrusive from positive memories as well. Positive memories are embued with deep emotional and psychological ‘meaning.’ The meaning of the relationship, various happy moments, the deep feeling of attachments, the fantastic sex–can all be power packed into positive memories. Positive memories are also embedded with all the sights, sounds, smells, sensations, feelings, the associated meaning of the events, and the remembrances of a happier time. The positive memories can also be tied up with a ribbon of fantasy and romanticized feelings. That’s a lot of power packed into a few positive memories that has the TNT emotional factor to blow your ‘stay-away-from-him’ resolve, sky high.

All memories are not stored the same. I’ve talked about this before….positive memory is stored differently in the brain and is more easily accessible than some bad memories. Many traumatic memories are stored in another part of the brain that make them harder to access. Sometimes the more traumatic they are, the harder it is to remember.

Unfortunately, what you might want to remember most is the bad part of the relationships so it motivates you to stay away from it. But instead, it’s murky and not always fresh in your mind about ‘why’ you should be avoiding the pathological relationship. But what IS easy to remember is all the positive memory. In fact, what has become obtrusive and intrusive, is positive memory seepage–where all the good times and the associated ‘senses’ (taste, touch, smell,etc.) are flooding your mind. You easily remember the good times and easily forget the bad times–all based on how and where these types of memories are stored in the brain. You NEED the bad memories but you REMEMBER the good ones—constantly.

In addition, that which is held internally is amplified. Almost like putting it under a magnifying glass–the feelings, memories, taste/touch/smell, are all BIGGER and STRONGER when the memory simply rolls around in your head. It’s a lot like a pin ball machine–memories pinging and ponging off of internal elements. The more it pings and pongs, the stronger the memory moves around the mind.

Memories kept in the mind also take on ‘surreal like qualities’ — certain parts are like a movie–fantasy based, romanticized. The positive memories are dipped in crystalized sugar and become tantalizing treats instead of dreaded dead beats! While engaged in this positive memory seepage–it doesn’t feel like you are indulging your self in toxic memories—it feels like you are trying to ‘process’ the relationship–why did we do this, did he say that, why was it like that then but it’s like this now…. It feels like what you are trying to do is sort out the relationship. But all the sorting of this dirty laundry still leaves the same amount of piles of clothes in your head. You’re just moving the same shirt from pile to pile–but it’s all the same dirty laundry. Nothing is getting cleaned up.

Positive memory seepage as intrusive thought is a big contributor to the cognitive dissonance women feel in the aftermath of these relationships. Cognitive Dissonance (or C.D. as we refer to it as) is the difficulty of trying to hold two opposing thoughts or beliefs at the same time. That’s usually “he’s good” AND “he’s bad” = “How can he be good AND bad?” Just trying to resolve that one thought can leave women’s minds tangled up for years.

C.D. can single-handedly take women down—it can cause her to be unable to concentrate, work, sleep, eat, or function. It’s like the little image of the devil sitting on one of your shoulders and the angel sitting on your other shoulder and they are both whispering in your ear. That’s exactly like C.D.—trying to decide which thing you are going to believe….that he’s bad for you, or that he’s good for you.

Positive memory seepage produces intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts, especially about positive memories, produces cognitive dissonance. These emotional processes feed each other like a blood-induced shark fest. It’s one of the single reasons women don’t disengage from the relationship, heal, or return to a higher level of functioning. Now that we’ve identified ‘what’ is really at the heart of the aftermath of symptoms—we know that treating CD is really the most important recovery factor in pathological love relationships. It’s why we have developed various tools to manage it (Maintaining Mindfulness in the Midst of Obsession E-book and 2 CDs).