Video: The Memory of Trauma

“Narration, story, is how we remember,” says Dr. Dan Allender in this video, part of our ongoing series engaging topics related to trauma, abuse, and the hope for healing. “You don’t remember by what occurred, you remember by the way you narrate that experience.”

Dan reflects on the nature of memory, and the ways in which remembering both pleasurable and painful experiences can trigger physical, biochemical reactions that reflect—even years later—our bodily response to the original event. In fact, in memory, our body hardly distinguishes between past and present. When it comes to sexual abuse, particularly the reality that our bodies often experience arousal in the midst of abuse, the phenomenon of memory leads to overwhelming feelings of shame and self-contempt for many people. If arousal, heartache, and horror can be so intimately connected in experiences and memories of trauma, why would anyone want to engage those memories?

All of this is why our stories of trauma must be engaged in their particularity, says Dan. We will not find restoration of our wounds until we are able to return to the particular moments of wounding with kindness toward our younger selves, engaging, grieving, and blessing all of the complexity that comes with memory.

“The phenomena of shame and ambivalence, and then a turn to contempt, judgement, and then a flight to dissociation, that’s the normal standard, versus a heart able to walk into the particularity of the story where the shame is held, to be able to grieve when your body felt what it felt, and to do so now, in the present, with a kindness on behalf of that younger part of you. That is the work of redemption.”

These videos are scratching the surface of the deep, weighty, and crucial exploration of trauma and restoration that we offer in our upcoming Healing the Wounded Heart online course, which has grown out of the material in Dan’s 1989 book The Wounded Heart and the 25-year retrospective Healing the Wounded Heart. This new online course will invite you to deeper engagement of your stories of harm and your hope for healing. We have been humbled by the process of creating this course and would be honored to have you join us when we launch in the coming weeks. Learn more here.