Painful Memories and Traumatic Memories:
Fortunately, most of our experiences and therefore most of our memories are not painful at all. More than likely you have neutral or positive emotional reactions to the memories of the vast majority of your experiences. For example, take a second to recall what you were doing a minute before you began reading this article. Your memory of that event is probably pain free.
On the other hand, certain experiences can produce memories that make us suffer emotional pain, whether mild or extreme. A mildly painful memory exists when just recalling an experience makes us feel sad, mad or scared. But a traumatic memory exists when the thought of a terrifying past event makes us feel overwhelmed and miserable.
Trauma means injury. People can be injured or traumatized on one or more levels of reality: physical, sexual, emotional, mental and spiritual. The sensations of a traumatic memory are felt in the body, typically somewhere between, and including, the throat and the genitals. A traumatized individual, someone at the mercy of an extremely agonizing memory, may report feeling horror, fear, shame, terror and disgust. Essentially, a traumatic memory is the result of mentally representing a terrifying past event as if it were happening now.
Painful memories and traumatic memories – like all memories – are invariably about an event that happened in the past. And whether we recall a mildly painful event or an overwhelmingly traumatic one, our emotional reactions are always felt in the present moment. For purposes of this article, it is important to realize that traumatic memories always precede a diagnosis of PTSD, a disorder that can weaken the immune system.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:
PTSD is a diagnostic label for a prolonged mental health condition connected to a past traumatic event. Someone with PTSD has experienced or witnessed a terrifying event, such as death, combat, serious injury or sexual violence and exhibits symptoms for a least a month. Symptoms may include re-experiencing the traumatizing event during the anniversary of the event, intrusive painful thoughts, nightmares, hopelessness, and flashbacks. Other symptoms are often insomnia, hyper-vigilance, feelings of horror, helplessness, guilt, shame or sadness, as well as attempts to avoid anything that might stir memories of the experience.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not mysterious; it is made of ongoing extremely painful reactions to a specific memory. Since PTSD is a result of a memory of a terrifying event, it makes sense that the diagnosis of a life threatening disease, such as cancer, can also cause it. For example, the sight of a blood test and the sound of a physician’s voice saying, “You have cancer”, can be overwhelming and form the basis of a traumatic memory.
The Mind and Traumatic Memories:
Your mind and your memories are made of visual and auditory representations, what you mentally see and hear as you think. I call these inner pictures and sounds “mental maps”. And, believe it or not, it is your mind that creates all your mental maps, which subsequently trigger all your emotional experiences — from joy to terror.
Of course, your mental maps are also made of smells, tastes and bodily sensations, which can trigger positive or negative emotions in the same way that visual and auditory maps do. However, due to limited space and to maintain concision, I have restricted my brief explanations of the mind and memories to inner pictures and sounds, the most commonly reported forms of mental maps.
People react emotionally to their memories of experiences, that is, they are triggered by the images they see in their mind’s eye and sounds they hear in their mind’s ear. In other words, your mind uses mental maps to represent events from your past. And, under certain conditions, your mental maps will form a re-enactment of a painful event, as though it were happening now, and you will emotionally react. Your mental maps are your mind in action. So a mental map or memory is a thought about what you saw and heard in the past. When you allow your mind to think about a terrifying past event, such as a life-threatening diagnosis, that memory, unless it is resolved, will trigger painful emotions in the present. Essentially, your mind, in the form of mental maps or memories, determines your current emotional experiences, whether pleasant or painful.
The Good News:
When you learn the nature and structure of your mind, and how memories are created, you will be empowered to transform painful memories into pain-free memories and completely neutralize traumatic memories. The way you think of your past, the images and sounds that constitute your mental maps, determines your emotional state. And since you can change your mind, you can change your emotional reaction to any past event. You can transform your experience from overwhelming pain to comfortable neutrality and even full freedom from the past.
What PTSD is Not:
PTSD is not a reaction to the future. It is a reaction to something that happened in the past. Since memories are always about something that has already occurred, we cannot have a traumatic memory about the future. But we can agonize about what is to come. Our fearful thoughts or mental maps about the future are the basis of the pain of anxiety. PTSD is about the past; anxiety is about the future. PTSD is addressed and resolved using one set of tools from The Destination Method® (TDM); anxiety is addressed and resolved using another.
PTSD Offers a Gift:
The universally acknowledged gift of suffering is compassion. The pain you experience as you re-live a terrifying event is the basis of your ability to appreciate the pain others feel, to put yourself in their shoes, which deepens your humanity. There is an emotional law: No suffering, no compassion. Compassion comes from the Latin “com”, which means “with” or “together”, and “passion”, which means to suffer. So if you are suffering from PTSD, you have the opportunity to more deeply connect with other people and feel compassion for them. Since compassion can only come to you through the pain of your broken heart, you may be reluctant to accept the gift. Nonetheless, the offer of Spiritual deepening via compassion is made to everyone who has PTSD. Of course, we do not need to create or add unnecessary suffering to become compassionate; there is more than enough gratuitous suffering to suffice.
Objections to Ending PTSD:
Even though painful memories can now be healthily ameliorated and even resolved, not everyone wants to end PTSD. Many people believe that PTSD cannot be resolved at all. They are convinced that all such attempts are not only a waste of time but evidence of chicanery and thus not worthy of serious investigation. Some think it can be resolved but only after many years of intense struggle, requiring extraordinary courage, psychiatric medications and nearly unlimited funds. The idea of quickly and thoroughly resolving PTSD strikes these people as superficial and essentially disrespectful. Others regard the end of painful memories as a kind of self-betrayal, believing something like, “If I feel fine when I think of what happened to me, won’t that mean that I have condoned the painful event or approved of what was done to me?” But most people continue to suffer from painful memories for two reasons: They have not received the gift of their suffering. And, not having access to a trained professional who knows how to help them, they simply don’t have the means to notice their mental maps, change them, and resolve their PTSD.
The Impact of Chronic Stress and PTSD:
Obviously, traumatic experiences are extremely stressful. But when painful memories of traumatic experiences remain unresolved, as in PTSD, they can weaken your immune system, resulting in greater likelihood of disease. For example, one study found that combat veterans with PTSD were two to three times as likely to develop heart disease as those without that diagnosis.
Sadly, in 2012, the Pentagon announced that more soldiers took their own lives than were killed in combat. In 2013, the Veteran’s Administration announced that 22 veterans a day are killing themselves.
Although PTSD is usually associated with war, sexual abuse and serious accidents, the disorder can also emerge in cancer patients, because seeing test results and hearing a diagnosis of cancer or having a recurrence of cancer can trigger profound distress. For example, a recent study found that almost 25% of women who were newly diagnosed with breast cancer experienced PTSD.
Research also reveals that 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives, and up to 20% of these people go on to develop PTSD. Among people who are victims of a severe traumatic experience, as many as 80% will develop PTSD. Almost 50% of all outpatient mental health patients have PTSD. And, an estimated 10% of women will develop the disorder.
Painful emotions suffered for a prolonged period of time, as is the case with PTSD, eventuate as chronic stress. It is well known that chronic stress releases adrenaline and cortisol, called corticosteroids, into your body. These stress hormones can be beneficial in the short-term, but if you are exposed to them for too long, you may experience high blood pressure, heart disease, muscle tissue damage, anxiety, depression, sleep problems, weight gain or loss, memory and concentration impairment, and much more.
Although studies have not shown a direct link between chronic stress and cancer, the medical community agrees that chronic stress compromises the immune system and therefore decreases the body’s ability to fight disease and kill cancer cells.
The End of Painful Memories and PTSD:
The tools of TDM help people to resolve painful memories, including PTSD, reduce stress and thereby strengthen your immune system. They gently guide you in a step-by-step fashion to mentally represent the traumatizing event in a neutralized form. They include a profound process of self-compassion that lifts you to a higher level of awareness, as you participate in conscious evolution.
You will know your painful memories have ended when you are able to think of that past event, have no emotional reaction to it, and feel as though a stinger has been removed from your heart forever. The goal of healing your wounded heart is to free you from unnecessary suffering so you can strengthen your immune system and get on with your life.
Resolving PTSD in Large Groups:
For the past 35 years I have helped literally thousands of people resolve intensely painful memories of all kinds. I have worked in 18 countries, around the world, teaching professionals and the lay public about the nature and structure of the mind and providing a plethora of powerful tools for ending unnecessary suffering. Recently I conducted several trauma-resolution workshops comprised of hundreds of people suffering from painful memories of all kinds. I worked with everyone in each group, all at the same time. To my knowledge, no one has ever attempted large group trauma resolution before or since. I am honored to report that after each workshop, the participants reported a success rate of greater than 96%.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people cannot imagine that painful memories can be quickly diminished or resolved, whether in large groups or in individual sessions. And because so many people, including professional therapists, simply don’t believe relief is possible, very few of them invest the necessary time and energy required to heal their own wounded hearts, much less learn how to heal the hearts of millions of other sufferers.
The TDM Trauma Resolution Process:
The TDM Trauma Resolution Process is my most powerful tool for resolving painful memories. It is one of many instruments within The Destination Method®, which is a transpersonal coaching strategy that I developed many years ago. This healing process gently guides you to time-bind the trauma, dispassionately separate from it, syntactically deconstruct it, and compassionately reassure your unconscious mind that safety and honor are already secured, which results in meaningful emotional freedom.
One of my American students, Dr. Jane Bolton, is a compassionate and brilliant psychotherapist. She wrote, “Since being certified in The Destination Method® by Dr. Robert Dee McDonald, what used to require months and even years of therapy is now often accomplished in a single session. I have helped my clients rapidly resolve grief reactions as survivors of suicide, traumas from childhood sexual abuse, panic attacks, damaging emotional enmeshments, addictions and much more. If every psychotherapist would take the time to learn the tools of TDM, a great deal of suffering could be avoided.”
Essentially, it is the way we see the trauma in our mind’s eye and hear it in our mind’s ear that makes the actual difference in our emotional lives. Irrespective of country, language or culture, it is now possible to resolve painful memories by learning how to change our thoughts and beliefs, that is, the mental maps that cause PTSD and disturb our peace of mind. In this way, trauma can be healthily, honorably and quickly resolved.
And such a resolution is a not temporary fix. For example, in 2008 one of my clients wrote,
“I worked with Dr. Robert Dee McDonald 16 years ago, because I was raped at 13 and raped again by someone else at 14. I got pregnant from the second rape and had the child. I was treated so brutally by the men who raped me and said such horrible things to me. Because I was so young when it happened, I didn’t understand that rapists try to control you not only by physically abusing you, but also by trying to mentally manipulate you and make you feel you are worthless. Their words stuck with me a lot longer than the physical abuse. Like a lot of victims, I blamed myself and could not understand what I did to deserve to be treated like that. Those traumatic events were a major part of my life, emotionally draining and confusing. They impacted my future relationships in my personal life as well as my work life. I was living under a huge cloud of despair and had very low self-esteem. I saw many therapists for help but nothing worked. Then in 1992, at 34, I saw Dr. Robert McDonald for one session. The work I did with him changed my life. It set me free. It helped me lift the weight and remove the dark cloud of despair. I felt immediate relief, got past those painful memories and was able to get on with my life. The benefits of that one session have lasted for 16 years. Of course, I feel sad for the little girl I was, because I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I went through. But, I can think and talk about those events without feeling bad. I feel strong and confident. I am in a great marriage with three grown children and an 11 year-old granddaughter. I am a successful person, wife and mother.”
My work with PTSD, painful memories, shock, grief, and emotional conflict is designed to resolve chronic stress, strengthen the immune system, and support your health. My mission is to heal and be healed. My vision is to see the world populated by compassionate and extremely effective coaches, counselors and therapists. And my purpose is the same as yours: To help create heaven on earth.