By Daniel J. Benor, MD
I am repeatedly astounded by the ingenuity of the unconscious mind in its efforts to protect us from emotional pains – in myself and in people who come to me for help with emotional pain that is persistent or recurrent. Often, it appears at first that we are victims of a harsh or even cruel world. Looking a bit deeper, however, we may come to discover, like Pogo (the Walt Kelly cartoon character), that ” We have found the enemy and he are us!”
As children, our unconscious buries feelings and memories of unpleasant experiences. This is helpful, because children often have limited understandings of why they are suffering and a narrow range of options for dealing with painful circumstances. Children usually cannot alter their situations and cannot leave them.
The unconscious mind becomes very skilled at hiding the buried feelings and memories from our conscious mind. In many cases, we simply forget they are there, locked away in file drawers that sit in dark, shadowy caves below our awareness.
The pattern of running away from and burying distressing feelings becomes a habit that continues into our adult lives. Even though we have many more options, strengths and skills as adults, we continue to take the well-trodden path of burying our hurts and fears beneath our awareness and then diligently avoid looking at them.
At the same time that the unconscious mind protects us in these ways, it also festers over the buried feelings. This is much like when a thorn in our flesh generates pus from antibodies and white cells that surround it but cannot eliminate it. The buried feelings are a constant irritant and burden to the unconscious mind.
In its efforts to get us to remove the thorns of buried emotional hurts, the unconscious mind generates repeated current-life re-creations of the original trauma and buried hurts. By doing this, it is hoping that, as adults, we will make use of our greater coping skills to not only deal with the current stress the unconscious mind is generating, but will also dig deeper and clear out the original buried feelings from our file drawers.
‘Lana’ was an intelligent, good-looking secretary in her late 20’s who was getting increasingly frustrated in her search for a life partner. Every man she was attracted to or who was attracted to her turned out to be abusive in one way or another. While she quickly learned to avoid those who were physically aggressive, she could not understand how or why she invariably was dating men who were inconsiderate, selfish, demanding, and short-tempered.
In therapy, Lana uncovered memories about her abusive father. He had left her mother for another woman when Lana was seven. These memories were long-buried and forgotten until Lana learned to release anxieties, fears and emotional pains with TWR. As her unconscious mind absorbed the new lessons about being able to handle painful feelings competently, it started to release the buried traumatic memories.
Though her father had not been physically abusive to Lana, she had witnessed him hitting her mother, and he had been verbally and emotionally abusive towards both of them. Lana was able to release her past and current anxieties, fears and emotional distress around issues of abuse using TWR. She was then able to install positive thoughts, feelings and beliefs to replace the negatives she had let go of.
The precision with which the unconscious mind recreates our buried traumas continues to amaze me. When we have recurrent patterns of experiences in life, particularly interactions with people and feelings that are evoked repeatedly, these are clues to search through the file drawers and caves of our unconscious mind for earlier traumas that are calling for our attention.
The more we clear these, the more easy it becomes to catch ourselves with future issues that get triggered, and to clear these as well. The more we continue to succeed in clearing issues, the more confident we grow in our self-healing abilities.
TWR is particularly helpful in building positive feelings, cognitions, self-esteem and self-confidence because parts of the TWR process include repetitions of positive affirmations. These are used both to counteract the troublesome issues we are dealing with and to install positives to replace whatever negatives we have released.
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