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  1. #1
    Senior Member mochajava's Avatar
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    Default Blocking out memories

    Does anyone else here have the experience of having entire pieces of your life basically blocked from your memory? I have this, and sometimes when I'm in a certain mood a few memories will bubble up and I'll be able to consciously recall them. This has been happening a lot lately. Anyone know why memories get blocked, and why they come back? Or has had similar experiences? Does trauma (small t trauma or big T trauma) have anything to do with it?

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    Symbolic Herald Vasilisa's Avatar
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    Hi mochajava. I do not have this happen to me in the way you describe, but I do know someone who does have this condition in no small way. This person basically has no memories before the age of nine. I'm not exaggerating. There was definitely trauma, we know for certain because a sibling has some better access to the memories of what went on. These children went through the most intense upheavals and they don't live with any blood relatives now, nor in their country of origin. Loving people came into their lives.

    Interestingly, the older child is the one with less (no) access to the memories. You might think thats strange because memories seem clearer the older we are. But I wonder if the abuse endured by the older child was worse or more vivid and thus they are blocked more strongly. Nothing in normal life makes them rise to the surface. They never bubble up. I suspect it would require serious safe-cracking to access them. Conversely, the younger child witnessed first hand an unspeakable act of violence, but that memory is very very clear. These people are adults now, impressive and together people who you would never guess have such a traumatic past. They aren't perfect people, but they are amazing people, I've been lucky to share many happy times with them.

    So, its kind of a reaction of someone who likes psychology to think that they must get some intensive hypnotherapy or whatever it takes to get these repressed memories released and examined and absorbed. I admit that is what I thought at first.

    But, now I look at it differently.

    That way lies so much pain. Its not me that has to face a deluge of pain of a psyche shattering scope like that. It's not me that has to consider the probability of exchanging a however flawed functionality for a crippling truth, in hopes of reaching some ideal of transcendent wholeness. Logically, one can say that there would likely be benefit. But how many people who don't have that kind of history even want to face their own unconscious processes and issues? It is their choice and I support them either way. They may choose to go about addressing it differently, too, if at all. Its all so deeply personal.

    So that is just a little of what I have observed in some people with a similar, but still very unusual (thankfully) situation. Sorry I cannot answer your questions. I hope that the emergence of your memories brings you valuable understandings. Don't be afraid to share them.
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  3. #3
    Undisciplined Starry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mochajava View Post
    Does anyone else here have the experience of having entire pieces of your life basically blocked from your memory? I have this, and sometimes when I'm in a certain mood a few memories will bubble up and I'll be able to consciously recall them. This has been happening a lot lately. Anyone know why memories get blocked, and why they come back? Or has had similar experiences? Does trauma (small t trauma or big T trauma) have anything to do with it?
    Hello mochajava -
    I have this. Or at least I think I do. I am not sure if my memory loss has to do with trauma. Every traumatic experience I have had I can remember with a great deal of clarity (maybe that is good but I'd be willing to try 'forgetting' too)...but prolonged stress does a number on my memory. Like since the economy tanked...and every six months or so we are told there will be 'budget cuts' (at work). This has been stressful...and I notice my memory is suffering. I had a fb friend request the other day...and I know I know this person...but I can't for the life of me figure out where, when, how... I know my mind can't seem to 'access' that part of my life.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Onceajoan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mochajava View Post
    Does anyone else here have the experience of having entire pieces of your life basically blocked from your memory? I have this, and sometimes when I'm in a certain mood a few memories will bubble up and I'll be able to consciously recall them. This has been happening a lot lately. Anyone know why memories get blocked, and why they come back? Or has had similar experiences? Does trauma (small t trauma or big T trauma) have anything to do with it?
    There are some memories of my childhood I have blocked out due to trauma. Prior to this time, there were memories that were inaccessible that came to light and were subsequently worked through. "Bubbling up" or "perculating" (perhaps) is a good way to describe the process.

    I believe that memories get blocked because the psyche can't handle the the emotional effects of the trauma - i.e. the pain, hurt, anger, sadness. Memories are blocked to some extent to protect you. That's why we have defense mechanisms - we need to have ways to stay intact and function in a world that can be extremely scary and frightening at times.

    Why they come back? I think that the memories come back to some extent so we can work through them. That's the spiritual take on the experience - but also they come back (unfortunately) because that's the way the brain is wired once trauma has occurred. It's part of the PTSD phenomenon. As much as I have experienced pain at the reemergence of painful memories and experiences, in the end it seemed like a "gift" (I know that sounds perverse!). By working through the trauma, I'm able to grow and become more resilient. I'm able to relate to others differently because I'm not reacting to others in a way to is really based in trauma from the past. I also feel the overall pain of my childhood less intensely as each piece is slowly resolved.

    BTW: Based of what I've been told, it's not a good idea to force memories to emerge. Sometimes this results in false memories. Trust that your memories will come as you are ready to handle them. They've come to me in images, dreams and memories. I have found that it helps to write the details down. Other times I prefer to cry or distract myself by thinking of something else. I think it's good to honor how you feel at the moment. Don't force yourself to remember if you don't want to (it will come back when you're ready), don't try to analyze and figure it all out (at least not till you have experienced all the emotions attached to the event and felt the pain) - a therapist is essential, IMO, if it's really intense.

    As I get older I find that more memories emerge as others our resolved. Again, I think it's the way our psyche handles trauma. Only a little bit at a time can be remembered, felt, examined and resolved in a way that makes us feel whole. As we get stronger, we can deal with more aspects or episodes of the trauma.

    I'm not sure about the Big T, little T distinctions. I suppose rape, incest, violent acts, gruesome war experiences, witness to murder might be considered big T(?) I can't say how that exactly works. I would imagine it's much the same in terms of processing. For example, a person might not recall all the details of being raped because it was so bad - but bits of a time be able to resolve the trauma. In either case, big or series of smalls, it often takes decades to work through this stuff.

    A book you might consider reading is: Memory and Abuse: Remembering and Healing the Effects of Trauma by Charles Whitfield.
    I haven't read the book cover to cover - but it has some useful information. A bit technical with a lot of psychological jargon. Not really a self help book - it's more of a book you could use to educate yourself about the nature of trauma -how it works, its effects, etc.

    Good luck!

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    I don't block out whole memories. I have tried and I only wish I could. Sometimes I'll forget for a while but it always comes back.

    However I am quite adept at blocking out the emotional impact. I'll remember the event in fine detail but whatever I was feeling and the impact will get buried in some dark place.

    It's like, I'll remember something and then start to remember how I felt and then I'll be all like "Nope, I am not dealing with this right now"

    Repressed emotions perhaps?? Detachment??

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    Senior Member guesswho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mochajava View Post
    Does anyone else here have the experience of having entire pieces of your life basically blocked from your memory? I have this, and sometimes when I'm in a certain mood a few memories will bubble up and I'll be able to consciously recall them. This has been happening a lot lately. Anyone know why memories get blocked, and why they come back? Or has had similar experiences? Does trauma (small t trauma or big T trauma) have anything to do with it?
    Well you'll have to elaborate your post.
    How old are the blocked memories? Are they from your childhood?
    Because in most cases these memories are from childhood, because kids can't cope with trauma, so they block it, and throw the memories away in their unconscious. They may ocasionally remember fragments of the memory, mostly because they encounter something that reminds them of the trauma. For instance a specific smell or whatever.

    It depends on how much you cope with the trauma, and the gravity of what happened.

    Try meditating, and recreating the context that made you bubble up the forgotten memories.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Rebe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mochajava View Post
    Does anyone else here have the experience of having entire pieces of your life basically blocked from your memory? I have this, and sometimes when I'm in a certain mood a few memories will bubble up and I'll be able to consciously recall them. This has been happening a lot lately. Anyone know why memories get blocked, and why they come back? Or has had similar experiences? Does trauma (small t trauma or big T trauma) have anything to do with it?
    I don't recall like 85%-90% of my past...seriously. I have maybe less than twenty snapshots of my childhood. Sometimes memories surface up and I am so surprised because it came out of nowhere. It's like I completely forgot. I started a thread about memories and being bad at it but you hit what I was trying to get at. Even recent events, I just can't remember most of it.

  8. #8
    Member October Rust's Avatar
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    Sometimes something like this happens to me. I have a sudden flashback, but it seems unreal, and I can't tell whether it actually happened or it's just my overactive imagination making things up. Yet a part of me knows that I'm trying to convince myself it never happened when it really did.
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    Iron Maiden fidelia's Avatar
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    The brain tends to try to protect us from emotional trauma that is going to be too great for us to bear - much the same as the body goes into shock when there's been a severe physical injury or that we feel numb when something serious happens in our personal lives. Normally, we come back out of it and then can deal with what's hurting us. However, if the trauma has been very deep, affected us at a very emotionally vulnerable period of our lives like childhood, or been ongoing for such a long time that you couldn't just process it and be done with it, it may result in surpressed memories. My guess is that emotional pressure eases up, or our attachment to someone stable and secure increases, then the brain feels it is safe to start releasing some of that back into our conscious thought and memory. I think if I remember right that you have been married for about a year and a half to an emotionally supportive guy and that you also feel close and safe with his family. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that you are experiencing this at this point in your life.

  10. #10
    Senior Member mochajava's Avatar
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    Thanks, Vasilisa, StarryKnights, Onceajoan, Arclight, guesswho, Rebe, October Rust, and Fidelia -- It's good to know that some of you fellow forum-members can relate or have seen this before.

    Onceajoan: Memories are blocked to some extent to protect you.
    My memories bubble up when I'm generally down, sad, feeling incapable, etc.

    I hate the idea that my past was traumatic, given that it could all be so much worse. I did get a fantastic education out of my upbringing -- that's not nothing. But I think that some of the things were terrifying and probably traumatic.

    The common thread to all our responses, and one of the questions in the original post, is related to trauma and how much we can really experience or handle at once. I suppose that in childhood everything happens, and in adulthood it's like a slow burning processing and healing through everything. Being human is so messy, isn't it? You can't just download the next security patch and do a virus scan and be done with it.

    My day-to-day memory now is particularly bad, I would say. I can't easily remember what I did the previous weekend unless I have something to pin it to (e.g., Friday I was at a particular restaurant, then I can remember what I did before and after and start to piece the day together).

    How do you work through the memories? Should you?

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