Dissociative Amnesia: A Protective Mechanism
May 1, 2024

Dissociative Amnesia: A Protective Mechanism

There are 3 main factors that influence propensity towards dissociative amnesia:

1.) the nature of the traumatic event,

2.) their frequency, and
3.) the age the person experienced them.

The younger the trauma begins and the more frequent/chronic it is, the possibility of amnesia is greater. When a child’s brain and nervous system are so overwhelmed to process any of the fear, hurt, terror, pain, etc. from repeated trauma, it makes sense that the traumatic events are more likely to be dissociated.

Even if the memories are dissociated, survivors of childhood abuse carry implicit memories (or non-verbal memories) of the trauma. Things like body memories, flashbacks, nightmares, and sensations of the trauma tend to leak, which gives clues of what they once experienced.

So many survivors of trauma say statements such as “I don’t have memories of my childhood” but then express struggles with panic, fear, a heightened startled response, etc. that they have no words for. My response is:

“Symptoms” are a form of a memory.

That panic is communicating something. That reoccurring pain that shows up in the body when you reflect on certain times of your life is trying to tell you something. Even if you don’t know why it is there, listen to it.

Healing can take place whether or not you remember your trauma narrative. The body tells us where the trauma is held and when we pay attention to it, things can shift!

Remembering all the details of the trauma is not necessary for healing. The ways that ones trauma leaks can be worked with to heal even what is unknown.

Healing is possible.

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