EP93 Cultivate Connection, Effective Communication, and Insight With Your Child by Understanding Memory Distortion and Recollection

Living With Your Child's Addiction Podcast
Living With Your Child's Addiction Podcast
EP93 Cultivate Connection, Effective Communication, and Insight With Your Child by Understanding Memory Distortion and Recollection
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The pain of feeling disconnected from your child can be overwhelming, but there are powerful ways to shift your approach and create the deep, meaningful connection you desire. Empathy, compassion, and effective communication are at the root of human connection. They’re also a critical component of shaping your experience of your child’s addiction.

When you access painful memories with feelings of guilt, blame, and shame you block connection because that creates cycles of defensive behaviors, avoidance, negative self-perception, and emotional withdrawal. Every time you access a memory you distort it. That means you can increase the negative emotional charge of a memory as you ruminate about it creating a profound
impact on your relationship with your child, your past, present, and your future. In this episode, Heather illustrates how to break free from those negative patterns and shape your experience intentionally to create a connection with yourself and your child.

In this episode, you will learn:  

  •  How distorting your painful memories perpetuates suffering and what to do instead.   
  • Why your brain likes to blame.      
  • How to take control of your own experiences to positively influence your relationship with your child.       
  • The power of thoughts, beliefs, and memories to transform your parenting approach.

Resources From Heather Ross Coaching

If you want answers and support to help you and your child Sign up for a 45-minute $17 Road to Recovery call with me using the link below

https://heatherrosscoachingcalendar.as.me/RoadtoRecovery⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠

Invitation to Change Learning/Support Group Use the link below to find out about the group Heather is hosting.

⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠Learn More & Sign Up For The ITC Group⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠

GROUP COACHING PROGRAM – Join the waitlist – New Group Starting soon! Be the first to get details. https://heatherrosscoaching.com/peace-of-mind-community/

Guide about enabling – If you’ve ever worried about enabling, this guide is for you! https://heatherrosscoaching.com/perspective-about-enabling/

Timestamps:
00:00:00 – The Power of Thoughts and Memories

Heather discusses the power of thoughts, beliefs, and memories, especially in the context of processing trauma, such as the loss of her daughter, Helanna. She emphasizes the impact of memories on our experiences and the potential for distortion.
00:01:00 – Distorted Memories and Trauma
Heather delves into the idea of distorted memories, highlighting how recollections of events can become less precise with each retrieval, potentially leading to the formation of false memories. She also discusses how trauma amplifies this distortion.

00:06:43 – The Impact of Thoughts and Beliefs
Heather explores the connection between thoughts, beliefs, and memories, emphasizing their influence on our recollection of past events. She highlights the potential for changing past perceptions and how it can shape our present and future experiences.
00:17:41 – Transforming Memories with Compassion
Heather encourages intentional thought choices to infuse past experiences with empathy, leading to a more optimistic
present and future.

00:20:31 – Managing Emotional Triggers
Heather discusses the impact of negative memories triggering emotional responses. She contrasts two scenarios, highlighting the importance of curiosity and compassion in managing emotional triggers.

00:21:38 – Reliving the Past
Heather explains how reliving negative memories can perpetuate anger and emotional turmoil.

00:22:58 – Shifting Perspectives
Heather delves into the power of intentional thinking and reflective processing.

00:23:40 – Taking Control
Heather emphasizes the control individuals have over their experiences, despite not being able to control their children’s behavior. She highlights the importance of intentional thoughts, feelings, and actions in effecting positive change.

Send in a voice message: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/heather-ross9/message

Transcript

This transcript has not been formatted or edited.

0:01

I’m Heather.

After many wasted years trying outdated approaches to my daughter’s addiction that felt wrong to me, harmed our relationship, and didn’t help my daughter, I finally found an effective evidence based approach that repair my relationship with her, helped me create my own Peace of Mind, and made me an ally in my daughter’s recovery.

0:24

I teach you a loving and compassionate approach to help you encourage change and create connection.

Addiction impacts the entire family system.

Family recovery is the answer.

Today I want to talk to you about something that this epiphany that I had as I was working through some EMDR this year I started getting EMDR therapy to help me process some of the traumas surrounding my daughter Helana passing away.

1:05

And it is just help me to see even more than ever how powerful our thoughts, beliefs and memories are.

So I had to share more about that because we just have so much power and how we create our experience and yet we are constantly told that we are powerless and there is nothing we can do.

1:33

And that is just such an injustice to every family and everybody that it affects in their family.

I’m going to be talking about EMDR in this episode, but that is not actually what this episode is about.

1:49

This episode is about how we can distort our memories every time we access them.

That means your memory of an event can become less precise with each retrieval, even to the point of it being a false memory.

2:15

Over time, a memory can become more about your thoughts in judgments about the memory than the actual memory, which is just mind blowing.

Let me say that again.

Over time a memory can become more about your thoughts in judgments about the memory than the actual memory.

2:42

So I’m sure that you can make memories better too, like how great your long lost high school love is.

But for this episode I’m only talking about painful memories, and when trauma is involved, we distort our memories even more.

3:01

It’s called memory amplification, and there’s a lot of trauma involved when we have a child struggling with addiction.

So even without trauma, our memories aren’t always reliable.

And as I’ve shared many times, our thoughts aren’t always true either, so we really need to be paying attention.

3:24

If our thoughts aren’t real, true, and our memories aren’t reliable, have you ever thought about doing something and you’d swear that you did it, but then once you got proof that you didn’t do it, you realize that what you remember is just thinking about doing it, not actually doing it.

3:47

Well, if you can remember doing something that you only thought about, and it comes up to you as if it’s a memory of something you did, then of course you can distort actual memories as well.

4:05

So like I was saying before, I came to an even deeper understanding of this through EMDR, so I’m going to use that experience to illustrate it.

And I’m going to give you just a really high level overview of EMDR in case you’ve never heard of it.

4:27

Because if you’re like me, you’ll just be thinking about what it is the whole time and not listening to me if I don’t tell you.

And if this sounds like something that would be helpful to you, I highly recommend researching it.

It is been absolutely just so helpful for me.

4:44

So EMDR stands for Eye Movement, Desensitization and reprocessing.

And the shortest definition that I could find was a structured therapy that encourages the patient to briefly focus on the trauma memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation, typically eye movements like you’re moving your eye left to right, which is associated with a reduction in the vividness and emotion associated with the trauma memories.

5:21

And so here’s a paragraph that I found that explains trauma pretty well.

Trauma is not about the event itself, it’s about what happens inside of us in response to the event.

The traumatic response is essentially an unfinished set of reactions to something.

5:42

In other words, this is any haunting or destructive material that is left inside of us emotionally, in our minds and in our bodies following a disturbing event.

This can be caused by an event that we experience as emotionally distressing, not just life threatening events.

6:05

So again, our response to an event is part of what makes it traumatic and this is something that we really don’t have control over.

So none of this is about blaming somebody for their trauma or insinuating they did something to themselves that caused it.

6:25

It’s just what happens in our brain and body.

So outside of a traumatic event, our brains work in a think, feel, act cycle.

We have a thought that thought releases the chemicals that we feel as an emotion in our body and we take actions based on the emotions that we feel.

6:51

So I just finished with the Think, feel, Act cycle and how we take actions based on the emotions that we feel.

And beliefs come from thoughts that we think over and over again.

7:09

So our thoughts and beliefs can affect our memories because our memories aren’t fixed.

Every time we recall a memory, we can distort it.

That means that we can change our recollection of our past, essentially changing our past because whatever we think it is is true.

7:36

So if we change our thoughts about it and we change our recollection of it, we have changed our past.

And then that affects how we perceive the present moment, and it can change our future because of the state of being that we are creating in this process of these thoughts and feelings that we’re putting on these events.

8:06

Are you with me?

I hope your brain is exploding right now, because what I’m telling you is that we are not stuck in our state of being, even with our thoughts about a past event.

8:22

We have so much power to change the way we look at things and I am not saying that you just need to put everything in the rainbows and butterflies category.

I’m just talking about being really intentional with how you think about things.

8:42

So here’s what happened to me about 10 months after Helena passed away.

It’s been a little over 2 years now, but at the 10 month point my grief peaked.

Like a lot of the shock had worn off.

So I was feeling the full force feelings of the grief at that point.

9:03

And in my state of grief and devastation, there were some painful memories that my brain kept bringing up over and over again.

And as my poor brain was trying to make sense of the loss that I had experienced, it was just constantly presenting me these ideas about what went wrong.

9:26

And a lot of those ideas included blame.

For me, What’s interesting about blame is that it creates a sense of safety for your brain, because your brain wants to have a reason for everything, because it’s always trying to keep you safe.

9:44

So it needs to know why things happen.

That way it can avoid the painful things again and get more of the things that you enjoyed.

So since our brains perceive physical and emotional pain is equally threatening, my brain was trying to protect me, but I wasn’t directing my brain at the time.

10:07

I wasn’t as intentional.

I didn’t have the capacity and my deep, deep grief, so that protection was working against me.

And these ideas from the You’re a Bad Mom category could get some traction, right?

10:25

We all are familiar with the you’re a Bad mom blaming shaming game our brain likes to do.

So the more my brain brought up those memories, the more they changed.

And I wasn’t aware that this was happening until a couple of months ago when I sorted it all out with EMDR.

10:49

The change that was happening to the memories was that they were all being like the original memory was getting getting written over with pain like guilt, shame, despair, hopelessness.

And the original feelings that went with those memories when I made them have been written over.

11:10

So it’s like opening a Microsoft Word document, making changes to it, and saving it.

So the more I retrieve the memories, the more painful they got.

And again, I had no idea.

I didn’t realize this was happening.

11:26

I certainly wasn’t doing it intentionally.

And I’m so I’m slowly creating this new past, present and future.

I was changing the feelings associated with the memories and what I made them mean about me as a mom.

11:43

So I’m changing my past.

Those changed memories were affecting how I thought about myself in the present moment.

So I started seeing myself differently and it felt very true.

The person that I am today, right, me creating this podcast right now, is the person creating my future, Right?

12:08

So, but then when I was recreating those memories, overriding my past, creating a new present, that me is who was creating my future, and I was creating it from feelings of guilt, shame, blame, hopelessness.

12:29

And that creates a very different future than what I’m creating.

Like in this moment right now when I’m feeling joy.

So when we’re in this state of fear and depression and constantly ruminating about the things that we’re blaming ourselves for, we can really traumatize ourselves.

12:52

And I tried to be really intentional and not traumatize myself, but I still did to some degree about certain things.

And my memories were losing their original context.

They became oversimplified, and I can explain, is like they were flat rather than 3D.

13:15

And I’m going to share a story that helps illustrate this.

So this memory is one of my top three pain points that I chose to have EMDR done on.

And this memory is hard for me to share every detail about, but I’m going to tell you enough that you’re going to understand it.

13:38

So in my EMDR session, I had to start by bringing up an image of the disturbing memory.

And the memory was of me talking to Helena.

13:54

It was when she was 19 years old, I was still living in Oklahoma.

It was night time and we were standing on the sidewalk outside of the house that she lived in at that time.

And one thing that really stands out to me about that night is that she wasn’t high.

14:13

Well at that point.

She was on heroin and meth and she was physically dependent, so she always was high to some degree, but I couldn’t tell that night.

So it was really rare for her to be that clear headed and I was just relishing and getting to have that experience with her that night.

14:34

And then after we talked for a while, she said that she needed to tell me something and I could tell that she was starting to get nervous.

She said that it had been eating her up inside, but she was afraid to tell me because she knew that it was going to change my life.

14:53

And in her words, I think she said she was afraid it was going to ruin my life, but she just couldn’t keep it inside of her anymore.

And she had talked to my mom about it, and my mother had encouraged her to tell me.

So what she told me did.

It was life changing, and it was something that had happened to her because of somebody that I had brought into her life.

15:16

And as as I’m talking about this, I realize another reason why my brain kept bringing up this memory was because after Helena passed away, I got her journal and I was reading through it.

This thing that happened was the last thing she wrote about before she passed away, so she had been struggling with it.

15:39

And of course it makes sense that the situation became synonymous with losing her and why I had changed that memory so much.

So as I share this memory with you, I’m giving you a lot of context that I was no longer accessing before EMDR.

16:01

When I pulled up the memory for EMDR, it was just this still image with all this guilt and shame and despair rather than a memory that’s more like a movie playing out with a lot of different emotions, right?

There was a lot going on there that I was talking to you about in The most important piece of the memory that came back to me was when she told me the first thing I did was to hug her and tell her that I loved her and that I believed in her.

16:37

And the truth of that moment was me loving her above everything else.

It was us supporting each other, her wanting to be there for me too, and me reassuring her that I was glad that she told me, and trying to take as much of the burden as I could from her so that she didn’t have to carry it alone anymore and she didn’t have to worry about telling me anymore.

17:06

At least I was able to relieve that part of it.

So now when I access that moment, what I feel is just that love between me and my daughter.

17:22

Like I can just feel what it felt like to be with her and it doesn’t change what happened to her, but it gives me room to work through it.

It gives me space and context, room for forgiveness and it keeps me from continuing to re traumatize myself by adding more pain and judgement to it.

17:48

So now when I think about that memory, I have a lot of compassion for both of us.

And that compassion and all of the context in that memory coming alive again is what helps me to feel differently when I look at it.

18:15

I’m not re traumatizing myself with it anymore so and every time I’ve gone through EMDR with other scenarios, it’s been that same experience.

Like it comes to life again and I get all this context and I like understand myself better and get to know myself better and why something’s happened the way they did.

18:42

It’s like this really beautiful opportunity to see things completely differently.

And even things that are still painful, to be able to still look at them with compassion, which was not available to me at all before I started doing this process.

19:06

And so I had this idea about how memories really get changed from doing the AMDR.

And then I started researching it, and it was true, like, there’s been studies done on it.

That what I’m telling you right now, there’s studies to back it up.

19:22

We do distort our memories.

So if your brain’s not making the connection yet, I want to give you some help with that about how this applies to you and your experience with your child’s addiction.

19:38

So consider this Every time you access a memory related to your child’s addiction, you have the potential to either perpetuate the cycle of blame and shame and hopelessness like I was, or infuse it with understanding, compassion, and hope like I am now, which is what I used to do before Helena passed away.

20:05

And I was very intentional about that before, and now, thankfully, EMDR has helped me to get back to that.

But by intentionally choosing thoughts that encourage self forgiveness, empathy, and a commitment to positive changes, you can transform your experience of the past.

20:30

And then, of course, you’re shaping a more optimistic present and future.

So if, let’s just say, you had an argument with your child last night, you got triggered, You lost your patience, called them names, they called you names.

20:49

Then they left and slammed the door, and you haven’t heard from them since because things got so heated.

So then the next day, throughout the day is you access the memory of that event.

You have a choice in scenario number one.

21:05

You can judge them for calling you names.

Think all kinds of derogatory thoughts about them, Think about how disrespectful they are, beat yourself up for losing your temper, and think about how you’re never going to have a better relationship with them and you just can’t live like this anymore.

21:25

Or in scenario #2, you access the memory and you pause.

You have some curiosity about it.

You wonder where things went wrong.

You think about how you both played a part in how it makes sense that you both got triggered because behaviors make sense and you had compassion for both of you.

21:53

You think about how you’d like to handle it differently in the future.

So in scenario one, the memories of the experience trigger you all over again.

Your body goes into fight or flight again, and you’re reliving the experiences if it’s happening it right now.

22:15

So then you’re angry, you have a crappy day, you keep ruminating about why they haven’t a call to apologize yet, and your memories of this past event.

They just keep getting bigger and more heated and emotional and your present feels just like your past because you keep reliving it and recreating it and your immediate and maybe even distant future is being created from this state of being.

22:49

But then you have the option of scenario #2.

Your memories of the experience become softer, and you might feel a moment of heightened emotion right when you first remember it.

23:07

But as you pause and become curious and reflective, you start to get more calm.

Because you’ve moved from your emotional brain to your thinking and reasoning brain, you get the opportunity to learn something about yourself.

23:26

And you learn something about your child.

As you’re reflecting on what happened with compassion rather than blame, now your memories of that past event have more context.

They become less emotional.

Your present frees you from the bondage of what happened the night before, and your future is created from compassion and understanding, two completely different outcomes from the same event, just by being really intentional.

24:06

So when I say that we can’t control our kids, but we can control our experience, this is what I’m talking about when I’m working with someone.

This is a big part of what we focus on because it is within their control.

And when they are intentional with their thoughts, feelings, and actions, things naturally start to change.

24:29

There’s immediately less chaos because they can see all the options for avoiding it, and then once the chaos clears, there’s room to focus on solutions instead of the problem.

It’s this paradigm shift, OK?

My throat’s getting tired, my brain hurts.

24:47

That was a lot.

So if you’re stuck in the yuck, you know, stuck in those painful emotions that keep hanging on.

And what I shared in this episode about creating your experience sounds like something that you would like some help with.

25:05

I invite you to sign up for a road to recovery call, and I’ll help you.

The link for the call is in the show notes.

Thank you for listening to this episode.

If you want to learn more about my work, go to heatherrosscoaching.com.

25:25

If you want to help other parents who are struggling with a child’s addiction, you can do it two different ways.

First, you can share the podcast with them directly or you can share it on your social media.

Second, you can leave a review.

Talk to you next week.