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Our Memories Can Often Feel Like a Jigsaw

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

Have you ever wondered why you can remember some events and not others? Or why you can recall some things, but you can’t memorise information, such as for an exam, or a telephone number.

Our brains are definitely extremely complex. Sometimes it feels like a jigsaw puzzle, but we don't have all the pieces.

But it would be impossible to remember and store everything in our lives. Can you imagine if we could recall every single part of every day! Just think back to the last week, and try to recall every part of each day.

We are more likely to recall those events that have impacted on us because they activate the part of our brain that responds to life-threatening events. Those moments when we felt really frightened such as a car accident, being attacked. Because those would activate our survival system, most commonly known as the Fight or Flight response.

At those times we experience all or some of those unpleasant physical sensations.

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest pains

  • Jelly legs

  • Clammy hands

  • Tingling

  • Numbness

  • Dizziness

  • Feeling sick

  • Needing the toilet

Added to which your thoughts race or conversely your mind goes a complete blank, as you feel helplessness and out of control.

These automatic responses once triggered can’t be halted. In extreme circumstances result in a panic attack, which can be terrifying for the sufferer, as they can feel they are seriously ill or even that they may die.

But we shouldn’t completely knock our survival responses as most of the time they work in our favour, keeping us from causing ourselves real harm. If you burnt yourself on something hot as a child, you may not remember that incident, but you do know that touching something hot could burn you.

When we experience a traumatic event the brain forms a connection between that event – say a car accident - such as a smell, colour, taste or shape. Hence the reason why we can suddenly recall an event for no apparent reason.

Say you fell into an open fire as a child and suffered some really bad burns, you may not recall that event, but you could feel anxious around naked flames or open fires. You may also be triggered by flickering firelight type images, the smell of smoke or sounds that related to the event, even the smell of certain food that were being cooked at the time. Or if it was bonfire night. you could be triggered by smells, tastes, or sounds associated with that.

One of the most famous experiments carried out was Pavlov’s dog. Where dogs were conditioned to salivate at the sound of a bell.

So you maybe wondering how that affects you if you haven’t experienced a life-threatening situation.

The thing is it doesn't have to be a major event, as the body responds to danger or perceived danger -

  • It could be that you applied for a job in the past and weren’t successful and you are fearful of trying again

  • A past relationship failed or broke down and you feel you don’t want to go through that heartache again

  • Maybe you got lost in a supermarket when you were small, and you are scared of going to new places alone in case you get lost

The clues are often when we react to something which is out of proportion to what is going on in the here and now.

It can be something really simple like a door slamming. Perhaps the wind just blew it shut, but it brought up sensations that relate to childhood memories of your angry father slamming doors.

You can see how we can become affected by past events, or how they get us caught up in repeated negative patterns because we are too scared to try new ones. Unless addressed they can get in our way from doing things we really want to.

If you are stuck in repeated negative patterns, then let's arrange a call - Just click on the link to find a time that suits you -

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