Posted on 10 March 2017
We are our memories. Our learnings, our joys and our sadness are all contained in those firing neurones in our brain which recall our past experiences. Much of my work is helping people process and clear memories which are hurting them. Often it is about understanding, acknowledging and changing the value and the emotion which people tie to a particular memory.
The strides made recently in our understanding of how our brains process experience throws fresh light on this. I sat up and took notice when I read of the work of the team led by Dr Sheena Josselyn, Associate Professor at the Department of Physiology at Toronto University. They have isolated just a few cells in the brain where specific memories are encoded. Experiments in mice have shown that, with this knowledge, specific memories can be removed.
The team says this opens up the possibility that drugs could be developed which removed a specific memory.
But they, alongside other experts, have raised ethical concerns. Just because something is possible does not mean it has to be done.
From my perspective, I would question whether the complete erasing of a memory is the most desirable course of action.
I see every day how the same sort of experience can have a vastly different effect on different people. The reasons for this reflect all our wonderful complexity as human beings. They often come down to our early experiences and others’ expectations of us and are about how we structure our unique reality and how we handle difficult life events within that.
I know I can help people deal with painful memories without resorting to drugs. I prefer to continue using cutting edge techniques based on neuroscience such as eye movement integration (which helps process memories) and other newer therapy techniques including emotional freedom technique (tapping).
When sensitively applied, and taking account of the unique and individual personality of every one of my clients, I know these work. They work and they allow my clients to take control. They are not passive recipients of a drug but active participants in their own healing. My clients can take away techniques and a changed mindset which will stand them in good stead when life gets tough again, as it does for all of us at times.
New insights are great and they add to our understanding. But we must never forget that we are dealing with a whole personality.
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