Trauma & Memory by Peter Levine
Chapter 1: Memory — Gift and Curse
While it may seem true that our memories are active and accurate accounts of our experiences we collect, what may be truer is that they are shifting and moving depending on the contexts that we remember them. Research is showing how memory is a “reconstructive process” that is being moved, shaped, rearranged, and updated much of the time depending on our need for survival and living. But how do we know if we can trust our memories?
Our memories, in short, are a collection of our life’s stories. They hold us in the midst of them, the people that are important to our lives, and the experiences we have. Our context with memory becomes meaningful in this way and the desire to trust them helps us make sense of our world. In this way we are able to maintain a thread between the past and the present.
When trauma enters the picture, however, the movement and meaning of memory changes. They become fixed and static. They do not yield to change — they do not yield new meanings. In this way it becomes difficult to find new meaning in the old…no way for them to produce in us a way to be life-giving. Traumatic memories keep people frozen in the past, held to the context of that past moment, without much room to making meaning of it in the present. Until they are able to assimilate these memories, they relive the narrative of the past.
In light of our religious faith and our view of trauma, this may make the idea of forgiveness, trust, or even love difficult if the past remains static. How does one make sense of faith in light of trauma?