Tag Archives: reconsolidation theory

Don’t give up on yourself

This weekend I was at Regents University in London for a course run by Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy. To get to the Uni, you walk through Regent’s Park. It’s a stunning park right in the centre of London, close to Baker Street, and behind Madame Tussauds.

I have experienced many moments in this park.

  • There was a conversation with Trevor Silvester about how I would one day look back on my childhood experiences and be thankful for them. I remember that conversation. It seemed a ridiculous thing to say. He could tell it unsettled me and quickly switched to a distraction. But I remembered it. And, of course, he was right. I am in that place now – but only just!
  • There was a moment just a year or two ago, where those of use who were qualified came together for an annual Cognitive Hypnotherapy event. I felt so different. I felt like I didn’t belong. And I felt sad, because I always felt different. I sat on a bench with a Starbucks over the lunch break. I left everyone else behind to chat. I isolated myself. It was just me and a squirrel that wanted what I had (no way it was getting my Starbucks!). I have since learnt to accept my differences – even like them. I can be comfortable with people I don’t connect with, in the same was as those I do. Not everyone is my tribe.
  • There were many Saturday mornings where I walked along, having had a session with Trevor on the Friday, desperately trying to process the barrage of emotions and thoughts that flooded me following yet another fundamental shift.

As I walked through the park on Saturday, I felt a deep, calm peace.

It occurred to me that I was unrecognisable in comparison to the person that first walked through the park just over 6 years ago. So much so, that you would swear it was not the same person.

There have been many times in the last few years that I have felt that I have reached the limit of change. Often, with things that I still was unhappy with. I would try and accept the version of me that I was. I would try and convince myself that some things just couldn’t be changed.

But I didn’t believe that to be true for my clients, so how could I accept it for myself?

And like that 18 year old me that didn’t take the bottle of tablets, there was a part of me that still fought; a part of me that still believed there was something better for me.

And then another shift has happened. In many ways, this was the most profound shift yet. And I realised that I was wrong: everything can change.

Bowling

I often tell my clients that this process is like bowling

Image result for bowling images

When you go bowling, you don’t know how many pins you are going to knock out of the way until you actually roll the ball down the alley. You have to bowl, and wait.

Each session we bowl.

You also can’t take the bowling ball and go round the back to get the back pins first.

You have to start with the front row.

So sometimes you feel that you have gone backwards. You uncover a row of pins, and because the others have been cleared out of the way, they feel significant. It feels like that was the main problem all along.

But as with bowling, you can only get at the back row once the rows in front are gone.

Don’t give up

So my message to you is: don’t give up on yourself.

Keep bowling. Keep going. If you are not happy with anything, it can always be changed. It might take a while, and it might even catch you by surprise, but everything can change.

And remember, whatever you think, the fact that you are reading this blog post means that you have not given up on yourself yet!

Your life is a lie

matrix

This weekend I went to stay with an old school friend. We haven’t hung out together for around 20 years. It was a chance to reminisce over a beer. We talked about our current lives and our shared school experiences.

It was clear that we are very different people now.┬áIt was also clear that memories are formed based on our own unique perceptions of the world – our own reality.

During our chat, into the early hours of the morning, there were numerous occasions where she would recount a shared memory. I would find myself looking blank because I couldn’t remember it at all, or being amused by the differences in my memory of the event and hers. In fact, there wasn’t a single memory that we shared where we remembered it in the same way.

Almost every memory you are aware of has been altered in some way. This is mainly due to reconsolidation theory. Every time you recall a memory you change it. You change it based on what you now know. You change it based on what someone else says. You then store the memory back in your brain in the changed format.

Let’s consider a memory of a time when you were a child, where you bit into an apple and noticed half a worm wriggling in the apple (yes this did happen to me!). At the time you spat it out and stopped eating the apple thinking nothing more of it. Then later, as an adult, a couple of things remind you of that incident:

  • You bite into an apple and notice a small hole. You remember the incident with the worm. As an adult you have a broader understanding of consequences. You know a hole could mean a worm. You project what might have happened, based on your experience of what happened that time as a child. Maybe you’ve already eaten the worm. Maybe there will be a worm further down in the apple. You throw it away in disgust and stay away from apples, or when you do eat them, cut them up and examine them closely.
  • One day you are telling a friend that you don’t like apples because of this incident when you were a kid. Your friend gags and says “Gross, I would have puked!”. From that point forward, whenever you think of eating an apple, you also think of being sick at the same time.

Reconsolidation theory means our memories are constantly being re-written.

This can be deliberately manipulated to lose significance and pain from memories. In fact, this is fundamental to the work I do. A client will often look a bit confused and say something like “I am not sure if this is real or if it’s just something I was told but…”

Every memory is a truth and every memory is a lie. Every memory has been changed.

Freud used to believe that stuff was buried deep.

If it was buried deep it wouldn’t be causing you a problem in your day to day life.

In my experience, it’s not the memory that’s the problem, it’s the significance or the pain attached to the memory that is the real problem. As the memory is not real anyway, if we change it in some way deliberately, we can easily remove the pain or the significance.

So remember, next time you are talking to someone over a coffee, you are changing your memories. Next time you write details of your day down in a journal, you are making them stronger. This is important if you are writing down something negative. You are making it stronger.

Practical tips

  1. If you need to write stuff down, when it is bad stuff, destroy it afterwards. Tear it up or burn it.
  2. If you are chatting to a friend and one of you gets upset, break the emotional state somehow with something neutral or something that makes you smile, before you part ways.
  3. Changing any detail about a memory changes the structure. So if you have a painful or repetitive memory that causes you a problem try changing something about it. Zoom in or out, make it black and white or change the colours, change the voice of a person to something silly like Donald Duck or a helium balloon voice.

None of these things will make a dramatically noticeable change, but over time you may begin to realise that the memory is losing it’s edge.

What happened doesn’t matter, it’s the significance you take from it that really matters.

If you need my help or want to learn more about what I do, go to www.thinkitchangeit.com