Rehashing the Past – Is it Necessary?

I’ve been asked, over the years, if, in order to recover from trauma, one needs to talk through every detail of the trauma. Honestly? I don’t think so. In fact, rehashing every single detail of whatever trauma you’ve been through can be re-traumatizing.

In terms of DID it’s a little more complicated. This, I imagine, would vary from system to system. I know I don’t remember everything that’s happened to me – I have years that are completely blank, aside from knowing where I lived and a few fragmented memories. I know it’s normal not to remember everything from your childhood, and I don’t expect to. It’s just that I have large amounts of time that are blank.

There is a period of time from age seven to nine years old that is incredibly vague. I do remember some things about school, very little about friends, and only a couple of memories of being at home. Given that some of my alters fall into that age bracket, I can safely guess that there was trauma at that age.

I want to know what happened. I want to fill in the gaps. I want to know what I’ve missed. In saying that, I don’t want to know all the details of the abuse. I’d like to know the extent of the abuse, but in mater-of-fact terms as opposed to gory details in the form of flashbacks and body memories.

For my own recovery I don’t think I need to know the details. In saying that, my parts probably do need to talk about some details. I’d just rather not know about it. That is somewhat possible for me because I’m not always co-conscious with all my parts.

It’s not easy though. Accepting that “bad stuff” happened is hard. I can say “bad stuff” happened. That still allows me to hide in denial a little bit. Saying I was “sexually abused”, even “abused” can be too much. That’s very confronting and often overwhelming. It fills me with horror and a deep, deep sadness. When those feelings become too much to cope with I’ll dissociate. Any distance from the reality of my history is a relief. There are, however, other parts that can talk about it.

They can say it’s sad or scary. Tell someone that they didn’t like it, that it was mean or different things hurt. I can’t talk about it. It scares me. Scares me so, so much. This is how it goes in my head when someone external raises the topic:

“No, no, no, no. Nothing happened. Nothing. Never. Nope. not me. Not here. Didn’t happen. Can’t hear you. Not hearing you. Not going to cry. You won’t stop. That’s it. I’m leaving. Done. Gone. Fading. Relief. Mind is slowing. Everything is okay now. Quiet. Interesting pattern on the carpet. I can see a face… no, not quite. Hmmm. Oh. You’re saying something. What? Oh… hmm. I’m not sure. No. I don’t want to move. Moving is scary. Still is safer. No, don’t touch me. Please leave me alone. Let me sit. Have escaped from the bad. Don’t bring it back. Don’t make it real again. Okay… I have to move or you’ll call an ambulance. Oh hell no! Not hospital. Please no. Don’t make me go. I don’t want them touching me. So scared. Must move. Foot… move. Can’t quite feel my body. It won’t move. I’m trying. I’m sorry. So scared.”

That… that, is what happens in my head. Sometimes that is what will lead to a catatonic episode. When that happen my mind slows down even more and I’m even more unable to respond to people.

I suppose, in short, rehashing trauma can be incredibly unhelpful and damaging. I don’t think that it’s something that should be forced. Clients absolutely need to move at their own pace (with gentle encouragement) and be in control of the process.

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8 thoughts on “Rehashing the Past – Is it Necessary?

  1. Yes I agree. Although sometimes I wish I could know every single tiny detail (because only then will I believe it truly happened) I don’t think it is necessary or constructive. Someone said to me the other day: you only need to know you were abused to recover from abuse. The how’s/why’s/where’s/when’s fade in importance when you look at the bigger picture: you were abused and you need to heal from a very traumatising early attachment. The healing is going on whether I remember details or not. Interesting post 🙂

    • I very much agree about the how/why/where etc. fading as time goes on. The bigger picture is much more helpful to look at.
      Thanks for reading and your feedback!

  2. I share the labels of DID and PTSD with you so I can identify with many of your posts. I LOVE the name “Life as a committee” ! I have experienced moments of integration but still struggle with cooperation and having my parts complete agreed upon tasks all the time. I look forward to what comes next. Keep on going.

  3. My experience in healing from my trauma has been I don’t need every single detail…but I need to process ‘enough’ to be free of the shackles the memory holds over me.

    I hate dealing with the details but turns out I end up being relieved after processing them. It’s a strange (but freeing) thing that happens.

    • That makes a lot of sense. I don’t think there’s any specific level of details that one needs to know… rather, it varies from person to person. There is definitely a certain amount that needs to be processed though. I can very much relate to the relief after processing things though!

  4. Current studies now indicate that re-hashing abuse/trauma is counter productive to the quality of a person’s life – beyond a certain point for the most part. Keeping a person in the routine of their life – not pushing intergration is slowly becoming the “gold standard” – at least that is what my research has uncovered.

    I do know every little detail of my trauma and it wasn’t that helpful – resolving the “emotions” has been the most benefical.

    Learning to trust and accept that “those” things happened to you – is really what is important. Too much time is often spent – “did it really happen?” – that is wasted time.

    For the past five years, I have done Somatics therapy – this has been extremely helpful. It teaches “mindfulness” – staying in the moment – it takes practice, practice, practice.

    Medications – anti-depressants, benzo type meds- should not be used in a person with disassociation. Please be very careful with the benzo medications – valium etc. If taken on a daily basis (not PRN)- they cause memory fugue – coming off them – a nightmare for a person of trauma. Brings back all the memories of a lifetime, complete with the emotions – leds a person to forced integration – all information is “right there”.

    Have you come across any studies on that?

    I would not ever want to go to a hospital – it would scare me a great deal.

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