“Never Trust Memories”
“Memories are meant to serve you, not enslave you.” – A.J. Darkholme, Rise of the Morningstar
There is no question this is the very first, and probably the most important lesson we HSPs need to learn. NEVER trust your memory!
Memory: A Play between the Conscious and the Subconscious
EVERYONE on this planet has the gift of memory, some poorer than others and some have had their memories altered or taken away through illness or an accident. Memories are perspectives of the past, nothing more. The events we experience are recorded both consciously at first, and then subconsciously. Given time, the conscious mind moves on to the more immediate or what Eckhart Tole defines as “The Now.” These fresh experiences are then, in turn, moved into the vault for safekeeping, but something happens to them in the process. The subconscious examines them and determines where they should be placed.
Development of Emotional Triggers by our Subconscious Self
In this subconscious sorting, prioritization takes place and the first priority is survival. Our survival instinct is largely based on what we have experienced, and more importantly, what we believe. I often write about the power of belief in my blogs, for it is the most powerful force on this planet. So, if a memory has any connection whatsoever to your survival, it sits on the priority list! But there’s more! Our subconscious doesn’t just file it in our brain exactly as things happened, it determines how important it is to our survival and attaches strong emotional triggers to it. Let’s say you were attacked by a dog as a child. This event would threaten your survival, and so the subconscious might exaggerate and expand that memory, while attaching the emotion of F.E.A.R to it (notice that I wrote fear in capitals and with periods? there’s an obvious reason for that). The trigger would then be a dog, any dog, even a toy cup poodle!
Figure 1. For some of us Highly Sensitive Persons, the foremost challenge is to learn to disassociate from that specific ingrained trigger or F.E.A.R. about something that our subconscious has taught us
Writing a Journal: A Solution for our Inflated Survival Instincts
It’s also true that our subconscious expands and exaggerates things that make us happy or give us joy, but for most HSPs, it’s mostly the darker events that haunt us. I try and write down events that take place in my life via a personal journal as soon as I can when they happen. I do this so that I can capture the reality, NOT the subconscious version that I have learned may be incorrect. For example, when I was buried in an avalanche in 1997, it was important that I captured the reality in writing as soon as possible after it happened. It haunted me enough for a very long time and having it expanded or exaggerated would have been devastating to me, hence the importance of a personal journal. Every once in a while, I would wake up screaming in the night, fighting to get the covers off of me, believing that I was being buried alive again. I think most people can agree that this one needs no subconscious exaggeration; it was a painful experience in itself, and very fair for my subconscious brain to have developed a strong will, or let’s just say, a trigger against any experience that resembled anything like it. Still, the subconscious mind will try, if ALLOWED, to over-expand that experience so that you never let it happen again. This is the foundation of PSTD. I go back to the event whenever that memory resurfaces and read what I wrote in my journal which then aligns with the real event, not the expanded version my subconscious would like me to believe. I suffered PSTD for a year after the experience. I learned to overcome it by understanding that my subconscious will sometimes over-exaggerate the experience, and I acknowledged and appreciated that it was for a good reason: survival.
Figure 2. A mountaineer buried in an avalanche being rescued
The Lesson 1 Summarized
Part of that above-mentioned expansion is what I call “The What If Syndrome” where the subconscious mind plays with our rationality and whispers all the possible alternatives that COULD have taken place on that eventful day. I learned to replace the “What If’s” with the “What Was,” meaning, re-reading that journal and putting facts on the table, instead of my own self-made fiction.
To those out there suffering from PSTD, I feel for you, I truly do. Some of you have events playing in your minds so intensely that it literally robs you of life. The subconscious can be very convincing, and to many people, what they remember is very real. That’s the problem, the trickster inside our heads. See it for what it is, an ancient survival mechanism that needs training. And its most effective tool is F.E.A.R.