Over and over again women are puzzled by their own process in trying to recover from a pathological relationship. What is puzzling is that despite the treatment they received by him, despite the absolute mind-screwing he did to her emotions, not only is the attraction still VERY INTENSE but also the POSITIVE memories still remain strong.
Woman after woman says the same thing–that when it comes to remaining strong in not contacting him (what we call ‘Starving the Vampire’) she struggles to pull up (and maintain the pulled up) negative memories of him and his behavior that could help her keep strong and detached.
But why? Why are the positive memories floating around in her head freely and strongly and yet the bad memories are stuffed in a ‘mind closet’ full of fuzzy cobwebs that prevent her from actively
reacting to those memories?
There are a couple of reasons–of which we will discuss today only the first one. Let’s think of your mind like a computer. Memories are ‘stored’ much like they are stored on a computer. When there is pain and trauma, memories are stored differently then when it’s a positive memory. Pulling up the negative memories from your hard drive is different than pulling up a memory that is on your desk top as an icon emblem.
Traumatic memories get fragmented on their way to being stored on the hard drive. They get divided up into more than one file. In one file is the emotional feelings, another file is the sights, another file the sounds, another file the physical sensations.
But a WHOLE and complete memory is made up of ALL those files TOGETHER AT THE SAME TIME– what you emotionally felt, saw, heard, and physically experienced. Not just one piece of it—and not just
the positive memory of it. A memory is good + bad = complete.
But when things are traumatic, (or stressful) the mind separates the whole experience into smaller bits and pieces and then stores them separately in the mind because it’s less painful that way.
When women try to ‘remind themselves’ why they shouldn’t be with him, they might get flashes of the bad memory but strangely, the emotional feelings are NOT attached to it. They wonder ‘where did
the feelings go?’ They can see the bad event but they don’t feel much about what they remember.
If you are playing a movie without the sound, how do you know what the actors are passionately feeling? It’s the same thing with this traumatic recall of memories. You might see the video but not hear the pain in the voices. The negative or traumatic memory is divided up into several files and you are only accessing one of the files—a place where you have stored the positive aspects of the relationship.
To complicate things further, positive memories are not stored like negative memories. They are not divided up into other files. They don’t need to be—they aren’t traumatic.
So when you remember a time when the relationship was good or cuddly or the early parts of the relationships which are notoriously honeymoon-ish, the whole memory comes up–the emotional feelings, the visual, the auditory, the sensations. You have a WHOLE and STRONG memory with that. Of course that is WAY MORE appealing to have–a memory that is
not only GOOD but one in which you feel all the powerful aspects of it as well.
Now, close your eyes and pull up a negative memory…can you feel the difference? You might see it but not feel it. Or hear it and not see much of it. Or feel a physical sensation of it but not the emotional piece that SHOULD go with the physical sensation. No matter what your experience is of the negative emotion, it is probably fragmented in some way.
Negative and traumatic memories are often incomplete memories–they are memory fragments floating all over your computer/mind. They are small files holding tiny bits of info that have fragmented your sense of the whole complete memory. These distorted and broken memory fragments are easily lost in your mind.
If you have grown up in an abusive or alcoholic home, you were already subconsciously trained how to separate out memories like this. If your abuse was severe enough early on, your mind just automatically does this anyway–if you get scared, or someone raises their voice, or you feel fear in anyway—your
brain starts breaking down the painful experience so it’s easier for you to cope with.
Next week we will talk about one other way your mind handles positive and negative memories and why you are flooded with positive recall and blocked from remembering and feeling those negative things he’s done to you.
I hope by now with these newsletters you can see the unique aspects of what you have lived through in the pathological relationship and why this is a whole different thing to heal from then other relationships. This is why regular counseling often doesn’t work and forget about reading regular relationship books! They are NOT written for pathologically based dynamics! ‘Imago therapy’ isn’t gonna help this. Dr. Phil’s books aren’t gonna touch this. The pathological relationship dynamics are UNIQUE and require a combination of several approaches to help you heal. If your parents were pathological as well, you have the double-whammy to heal from.
Please don’t live your whole life with symptoms that CAN BE treated and helped. We have made our retreats as cheap as we possibly can so that each of you can receive help and healing.