Trauma all too often brings up the detective in people, prods them to question, pin point, dissect accounts, weigh relative credibility. It is an odd thing, given the reality that trauma–by its very essence of overwhelm and shutting down of language centers, processing, and memory integration–affects how one may be able to remember, recount, and narrate it. Trauma is difficult to articulate and often too difficult to comprehend, even to know. And yet, it is often demanded to be phrased in exact details that go beyond every-day memory. As if trauma memory should be, somehow, more stellar, subject to higher standard, to bigger scrutiny.
Granted, there may be a motive in it: people would rather believe trauma is less frequent and not as severe. If there are holes in a story, maybe it is ‘proof’ that it did not take place, or not as badly, or not deliberately … At the same time, there is an inherent lack of understanding about how memory and overwhelm conflict and contradict each other. In some ways, a misremembered, disjointed, incoherent event fraught with numbness and confusion may well BE one of a trauma … rather than be proof of something not happening …
Trauma is a problematic thing for memory.
People remember trauma differently. Some remember constantly, vividly, intrusively. Some remember oddly. Some remember snippets, or sensations, or disjointed unease that seems disconnected from anything that seems to make sense. Some remember sometimes. Some remember not at all.
Children, especially, may find not remembering safer than to try and manage the overwhelming reality of what to let reality in may mean. They may have to keep things in the ‘not knowing’ folder to go on and push away reminders that make no sense, they recant, reverse, deny, ignore.
In the article below, the author explores memory and trauma, denial and dismissal, inaccuracies and interpretations, shame and judgment, burden and prejudice, reality and myth.
It is a worthy read for anyone who has been touched by or knows someone who has been touched by trauma (that should include the lot of us, really …). It is an even worthier read if one keeps in mind how it would be all the more difficult for children to conceptualize and remember trauma cohesively, when they have less tools with which to manage what they had endured, and are more vulnerable to misconceptions about what it says to them, about them, about those who hurt them, about the world, about who they may be or have become.