Managing Trauma Impact


I was abused as a child by a family member. Since starting trauma therapy, I'm flooded with memories - not of the abuse, but of the house where it happened. Smells, sounds, tastes, images of rooms, my drawings, TV shows I watched. They come randomly throughout the day. I keep wanting to say "NO" to make them stop. Is this normal? What's my brain trying to tell me?


Thank you so much for asking this. I'm sure the flood of these memories can be disorienting, frightening, and isolating for you. What you're experiencing is indeed normal and common for survivors beginning trauma therapy. The flood of memories you're encountering is a typical response as your brain starts to unpack experiences it had previously tucked away for your protection. The sensory nature of these memories - smells, sounds, tastes, images - is very common, especially for childhood experiences, as our senses are deeply connected to memory formation and recall. Their random occurrence throughout the day, while unsettling, is part of your brain's process of integrating these experiences into your conscious awareness.

Let me walk you through what might be happening to help give some context...

Trauma can significantly affect the brain, particularly in areas responsible for memory processing and emotional regulation. The hippocampus, which plays a crucial role in memory formation, can be impacted by traumatic experiences. This can lead to fragmented or suppressed memories as a protective mechanism. The amygdala, responsible for processing emotions, often becomes hyperactive in trauma survivors, leading to heightened emotional responses and anxiety.

During a traumatic event, especially in childhood, the brain can enter a state of hyperarousal. In this state, it may store sensory details intensely while struggling to form coherent narratives. This is why you might vividly recall sensory elements like smells or sounds without clear memories of the actual events.

As you engage in trauma therapy, you're essentially giving your brain a safe space to process these stored memories. The therapy helps to reactivate neural pathways associated with the trauma, allowing for reprocessing and integration of these experiences. This is why you're suddenly recalling seemingly mundane details – your brain is piecing together the puzzle of your past experiences.


he random nature of these memories surfacing is partly due to the complex way trauma memories are stored. Unlike typical memories, traumatic memories can be stored in a more disorganized manner, making them prone to being triggered by various stimuli in your current environment.

Your instinct to say "NO" to these memories is your brain's way of trying to maintain the protective barriers it had built. However, the emergence of these memories, while distressing, is often a sign that your brain now feels safe enough to start processing these experiences. It's not that your brain is necessarily trying to tell you something specific. Rather, this is part of its attempt to process and make sense of your past experiences, working to integrate these memories into your broader life narrative.

This process, known as memory reconsolidation, is a crucial part of healing from trauma. As you work through therapy, you're gradually helping your brain to recontextualize these memories, integrating them into your life narrative in a less distressing way. It's a challenging process, but it's also a sign of your brain's remarkable capacity for healing and adaptation.

I encourage you to discuss these experiences with your therapist. They can provide personalized strategies to manage these memories and help you navigate this challenging aspect of your healing journey. You might find it helpful to try grounding techniques when memories arise or to keep a journal of these memories if you feel comfortable. Remember to practice self-compassion throughout this process. Healing isn't linear, and there may be times when memories are more frequent and intense, and times when they're less so. Your experiences are valid, and what you're going through, while difficult, is a normal part of the healing journey. Trust in your capacity to heal and continue working with your therapist to process these experiences.

Remember, everyone's healing journey is unique. While it can feel scary, I commend you for working through this process. Healing takes time, but it also takes a lot of effort. It takes a lot of strength and courage to go through this. Thank you for sharing this experience. We are here for you. 

Safety Exit