Repressed memories?

In my past blog post “Home Depot by Brian Turner,” I talked about poetry being able to draw out repressed memories. After doing some digging, I found that the memory I was describing as repressed could be argued that it wasn’t actually a repressed one. The reason being around what a repressed memory actually is. A repressed memory is actually a psychological phenomenon, in which a person’s brain suppresses a traumatic moment because it is too much to handle. This phenomenon occurs mostly in adults that were abused as children. The trauma of their childhood was too much for their brain at the time and it could not handle the stress of it, therefore, their brains acted as if the event never happened. However, as their minds aged memories events that could not be processed are now able to be processed and their memory of the event comes to the surface. The memory that I described in my past blog post wasn’t a repressed memory, but a memory that slipped into my deep subconscious. 

Now, I am no psych major and trying to make sense of all this seriously gave me a brain aneurysm. So please forgive me psych majors, if I butchered this concept. In my research though, I found an article on the effect of poetry on your brain and learned some interesting things. The article bases it’s content off a study done by the University of Exeter to figure out the effect of poetry on the brain. I found that music and poetry affect your brain the same way; both stimulate the right hemisphere of the brain and is responsible for joy and thrill. I also found out and this is the big one- that while reading their favorite poetry, the area of the volunteer’s brain that is responsible for memory “lights up.” While I don’t know what the volunteers were thinking of, I believe I experienced what they experienced while reading At Lowe’s Home Improvement Center. Reading that piece: activated my deep subconscious, made my brain make a connection that was not in my immediate thought, and caused me to actually relate to something that I had forgotten I related to- that just amazes me… Reading a poem- words on paper caused all that to occur in my brain.

2 Replies to “Repressed memories?”

  1. Psychology major here. Don’t worry – the first (and most valuable) concept you learn in psychology courses is that there are no absolute truths and that invariably what you are learning to be true in one class is going to be totally unraveled in another. When I took cognitive psychology – which relates most to the points you are making about memory – we learned ways in which the human brain is designed to work under most circumstances; i.e. what processes are used to memorize information, the encryption of memory, recollection, etc. And then I would go immediately to my cross-cultural psychology course that would say “well actually, those systems are very specific to Western cultures and are not representative of the ways the majority of the world processes information due to cultural adaptation.” Yet my biopsychology course would argue that there are genetic truthes across cultures. But going back to the cross-cultural course, the argument would be that it was culture and environment defining truth, not biology…you see what I’m getting at here. Psychology is such a massive field with so many different branches thatit is easy to get lost, and easy to take what a certain branch is saying for truth. You are correct in saying that in the psychotherapeutic/cognitive/abnormal definitions, that is what a repressed memory is considered; though there is something to be said about how psychological language enters mainstream english, for better or for worse (I don’t think you calling something a repressed memory is on the same level as, say, our tendency to call people we don’t like psychopaths).

  2. I think this is really interesting! I would love to read more on poetry as therapy. I think a lot of poets (especially those who write without the intent of being published) use poetry as a coping mechanism. Poetry can be so helpful as part of someone’s healing process.

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