Secret #5: Your Antivirus Program May Be Making You Sick
Most of us have an anti-virus program on our computer to protect us from unwanted intrusions and so does the human hard drive. In the human hard drive it is our memory program that tells us to seek out pleasurable experience or avoid painful experiences. This stimulus/response mechanism generally works pretty well.
This mechanism is particularly sensitive to traumatic memories. When something happens that causes us pain we want to be sure we don’t repeat that same experience. Dr. Loyd recalls a client who had all the ingredients for success, a 180 IQ, graduation from an Ivy League school with honors, and was tabbed for greatness on Wall Street. But things never worked out right. “I keep sabotaging myself in my career,” his client recalls. “Everybody says I should be a mover and a shaker on Wall Street, but every time I’m getting close to something like that, I find a way to mess myself up.”
Looking back for cellular memories of trauma, it turned out it was “no big deal.” It was a Popsicle memory that turned out to be the key to the problem. It went back to a memory when his client was five or six. It was a summer day and Mom had given the sister a popsicle but would not give the client one until she finished her dinner. No big deal, right? That couldn’t cause a huge block to success, could it?
Well, we know it isn’t what happens to us that is the problem, but how we interpret what happens. In this case the client interpreted the Popsicle memory to mean that she wasn’t loved as much as her sister, that she was somehow inadequate, defective. And these cellular memories got triggered in later life and sabotaged her success.
The problem with these memories and the way we interpret them is that they are so common and seemingly innocuous, we don’t recognize them as traumatic.
“These pre-language and pre-logical-thinking memories can really become a bugaboo to us throughout our lives,” say Loyd and Johnson. “And we have thousands of these.” When we go through a trauma, even a small one, our higher rational thinking is disconnected to some degree. We go into shock.
When a later memory triggers a similar feeling, when we feel unloved or “less than,” unsupported, or vulnerable, our protective mechanism kicks into gear and tries to prevent us from being hurt again. Our adult brain sees it as self-sabotage, but our cellular memory sees it as self-protection.
I had one of these childhood traumas when I was 6 or 7 years old. A friend of my mother was watching me while my mother was at work. When my mother returned she had to take the friend home and I was left to take care of myself for the few minutes it took for my mother to drive her home. It got dark and I became terrified my mother had abandoned me or that something had happened to her. I quickly went into total panic.
I walked out to the curb and looked for her car. When I didn’t see it I started to sob uncontrollably. Shortly thereafter my mother returned and she seemed upset with me for crying and being outside where neighbors might see me. She probably had only been gone 20 or 30 minutes, but in my mind it felt like forever.
Years later, as an adult, any time my wife came home later than expected, I would begin to feel the same panic. One night my wife was particularly late (she had met some friends and lost track of the time). As time passed I went from worried to panicked to total melt-down with fantasies that she had been in an accident and been killed. When she arrived home, happy to see me, I was sobbing and angry. She couldn’t understand why I was so upset and I couldn’t either. I dismissed my feelings as being “childish.”
No matter how many times I tried to talk myself out of feeling frightened when my wife was a little late, I couldn’t do it. When we keep having these unwanted feelings and experiences, Loyd and Johnson say, “Your protective programming system is making a determination that somehow the circumstance you are in is related to a trauma. These memories and this memory belief system become programmed into the hard drive in our human computer. Pain memories are prioritized over any other kind of memory in order to allow us to survive and grow up.”
These deeply programmed pain memories originally had a survival value, but now cause us stress that leads to illness. But since the memories are mostly unconscious we have a difficult time healing them. Even when we can remember the original trauma, we can’t seem to calm our troubled hearts.
Jed Diamond, Ph.D. has been a health-care professional for the last 45 years. He is the author of 9 books, including Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, Male Menopause, The Irritable Male Syndrome, and Mr. Mean: Saving Your Relationship from the Irritable Male Syndrome . He offers counseling to men, women, and couples in his office in California or by phone with people throughout the U.S. and around the world. To receive a Free E-book on Men’s Health and a free subscription to Jed’s e-newsletter go to http://facebook.com/menalivenow. If you enjoy my articles, please subscribe. I write to everyone who joins my team.
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