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New Insights into Modifying Traumatic Memories Through Recall Disruption

Traumatic memories have always posed a challenge in hypnotherapy. Unlike everyday memories, traumatic memories tend to be deeply ingrained and vividly recalled due to the way they are encoded in the brain. This involves increased activity in the amygdala and hippocampus compared to normal autobiographical memory formation.

However, recent research provides some hopeful insights into how we may be able to modify traumatic memories to help clients suffering from PTSD. A new study published in Nature Neuroscience demonstrated that traumatic memories can be weakened by engaging in a distracting task immediately after recalling the traumatic experience.

In the study, participants were asked to recall a traumatic event and then complete a simple math exercise for 10 minutes. This act of recalling the traumatic memory, followed by a distraction task, led to changes in the memory when it was later recalled again. The traumatic memory became less vivid and emotional over time after using this technique.

The researchers explain that memories become labile or malleable when recalled. By occupying the brain right after recall, the process of reconsolidation of the memory is disrupted. When the traumatic memory is stored again, it is done so in a weaker way.

Importantly, the article also highlights how the events before and after trauma can act as triggers, even if they are not consciously associated with the trauma itself. This is worth considering when working with clients. Even if the traumatic event itself is not recalled, triggers may exist in the surrounding events that are still capable of activating the traumatic memory.

As hypnotherapists, we know that memory is suggestible to change under hypnosis. This new research demonstrates that occupying the mind after recall may help weaken the strength and intensity of traumatic memories.

While more research is still needed, this provides an interesting avenue for developing new hypnotic techniques for PTSD treatment. After guiding a client to recall a traumatic memory under trance, we could immediately follow up with a distracting math exercise or other absorbing cognitive task. Or we can train our clients to practice this recall technique on their own, followed by 10 minutes of distraction.

Consider how many pattern interrupts and math-related processes you can naturally integrate into your techniques that can weaken the intensity of memories. Integrate them using visual and auditory modalities, and you may start to see the potential for using distractions to repattern the memory.

Over time and repetition, this may allow us to slowly modify traumatic memories and reduce their vividness and associated distress. This can complement other hypnotic techniques aimed at reframing and disassociating from the traumatic memory. As always, proceed with sensitivity and care when working with those suffering from PTSD. But these new insights give us another tool in helping clients gain mastery over traumatic experiences and be able to put the past behind them.

You can find the full article at ttps://

Credited to:

Author: Jenna Kurtzweil

Source: Beckman Institute

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1 Comment

J Austin
Jan 30

This absolutely works as I was just working with a client recently who was having reactivated PTSD from childhood as she's getting ready to testify against a perpetrator. She felt lighter and freer and able to be in her power after we did some distraction techniques incorporated with Havening protocols such as counting stairs, EMDR, imagery of beach, humming and colors. Thanks.

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