Over a hundred year ago, one of the astonishing discoveries that Freud made was that through the act of psychotherapy a person heals through memory. Freud, working with patients with physical symptoms for which no organic cause could be found, discovered that these symptoms were the stored up effects of emotional and psychological trauma. His patients, like most of us today, endeavored to do their best to forget these traumas and injuries. The mind is very clever in its ability to do so: to forget. No one wants to feel pain; no one wants to hurt. So the mind ingeniously, through denial, through dissociation, forgets. However, what Freud discovered was while the mind forgets, the body does not. That pain and injury remains in the body’s memory; those were the symptoms that his patients exhibited.
The other amazing discovery that Freud made was that through the act of remembering, those injuries can be healed and symptoms cured. Through the process of remembering, done (and this is a key point) with someone (the therapist), a person can work through the pain and find true healing. The “talking cure” that Freud pioneered involved remembering and talking about these painful experiences. In this way, the pain can be moved from the body into a healing relationship (with the therapist) where the emotions can be felt and processed.
Of course, this process is not an easy one and involves remembering and, thus, re-experiencing, truly painful experiences. My clients and I encounter this dilemma every day. And together, with great sensitivity and appropriate pacing, engage in this process of remembering. While we cannot change what has occurred in the past, we can together heal the pain and change the maladaptive ways that people have been coping through the years.
Over a hundred years ago, this physician made these enormously important discoveries. Discoveries that remain so true and pertinent to us today. What my clients and I do is to remember together — although not in the same format as Freud worked, but in the same spirit.