Very often I get asked if I can help someone to recover a suppressed memory because they think something traumatic has happened to them in the past. Technically the answer to that question is Yes I can take someone back to a suppressed memory using a technique called Regression, however there are contraindications that must be considered. As a professional, I work with my clients to achieve the best outcome for them and so I might not agree to help them recover the memory for the following reasons.
- If you have an idea that something has happened to you, but are not clear on exactly what has happened or by whom, you will have run through possible scenarios in your mind. We have a natural tendency to ‘fill in the gaps’. These imagined scenarios are stored just like real memories and therefore can be retrieved, thus imitating a real memory, and you may not be able to distinguish fact from fiction.
- Most of us have the experience of hearing a friend or relative tell a story about something that happened in the past, and as they tell the story it doesn’t match our own recollection of events. “No that’s not what happened” we say. Each time we access a memory we can change bits of it and put it back in a slightly different state, so the memory may not be completely true.
- We naturally delete, distort and generalise information that we receive as it happens, based on our beliefs. If two people witness a car accident they are likely to give different accounts of what happened. e.g. one might generalise that because one driver was driving a particular car he must be at fault because in his opinion all people that drive that make of car are idiot drivers (generalisation), he will see only what fits his belief about that type of car driver (distortion), and will not see what doesn’t fit his beliefs (deletion).
- If the memory is suppressed it is likely that your brain has suppressed it for a reason, because it was too traumatic for you. The last thing I would want to do to a client is re-traumatise them. Often if a memory of something that happened at a young age is recovered, the client will ‘associate’ into the younger them and so I will only use regression after careful consideration. As an example I once had a client with a terrible fear of needles, and the techniques and approach used in the first session did not remove the fear. When he returned for his second session I regressed him to the initial event in hypnosis. At that point he began sobbing. I asked him how old he was (4yrs), who he was with (his mother), and where he was (at the clinic). I then asked why he was crying an he told me “All the other children are crying”. He was frightened because he could hear other children crying and he was going to get his pre-school jabs. The part of his brain responsible for keeping him safe had linked the feeling of fear and upset with the injection, and now reminded him of this feeling whenever he was due to have an injection so that he would not put himself into ‘danger’. In this case just as I expected it was not a hugely traumatic incident and I got his adult self to reassure the younger self. Now imagine if the recovered memory was of abuse, you will not likely be able to reassure your younger self that abuse is OK, because it isn’t.
That does not mean that I can’t help you – just that I will help you in a different way. I tend to use safer techniques which have been specifically developed for things like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have many very effective techniques to remove any emotion or feelings you might have from any fragments of memory; things you may have been told; or those parts of the ‘puzzle’ that have confused, or concerned you in some way. These techniques will render what may or may not have happened as completely insignificant (or about as significant as what you had for lunch three weeks ago on a Wednesday when it rained). Moreover the event cannot be used as supporting evidence for any limiting beliefs you hold about yourself. If someone is approaching me with this type of enquiry, they are likely doing so because they have a problematic symptom which has led them to contact me in the first place e.g.anxiety, low self-worth/confidence/self-esteem, depression, anger issues, relationship issues, addictive behaviours, sexual dysfunction etc. I would work with the person to change the beliefs caused by the event and change the offending behaviours, feelings. or thoughts it created. Law-courts would be unlikely to accept evidence recovered using hypnosis to convict someone of a crime for all of the above reasons.