Last week I wrote about psychotherapy as a process of memory – the act of remembering what is painful but which has gone unremembered and thus remains lodged in the body. Some more thoughts about memory.
As I mentioned last week, Freud’s patients presented with mysterious illnesses and disabilities for which no organic cause could be found. What Freud found was that these symptoms were the expression of pain from events that had occurred in the person’s life but had been forgotten in some way.
While clients may present with such symptoms these days, what is more common is people coming to therapy because of depression, anxiety, a nagging sense of emptiness or lack of direction. Those are the symptoms we tend to see today. And while there may very well be factors in present day that contribute to these symptoms (and we do focus on these current situations), often what we find are core events from one’s past. By remembering these events – the act of talking, putting words to these events and speaking to another person, is a powerful process of remembering – we can work to heal the pain that a person carries with them and manifests as depression or anxiety.
A client told me about a program she had heard on Alzheimer’s disease. It was reported that while people with this disease may not remember actual painful events, they still feel the pain, or sadness, associated with the events. In this sense, the body holds the memory, the emotions, even when the mind forgets the actual event.
Through remembering together in the work of psychotherapy, the client and I find more emotional healing, more ability to come to terms with these events. In the process, then, there is often more energy available to address newer ways of relating to one’s current life and challenges.