We’ve been exploring themes around Knowing and body wisdom lately, and how, when we tune into the signals from body (changes in breath, heart rate, heat, buzz-iness, dropping or expanding sensations) we are more connected to ourselves, to the world around us and to what is most life affirming for us at the time.
To continue this exploration, I want to name an important factor from brain science that can influence this body Knowing, and then give you a tool for how to work with this.
Fundamentally, when given the time and space for it, life will innately move towards health and well-being. Your body and Being gravitate towards life, vitality and harmonious, healthy connections. We are literally built (in the brain, the nervous system, the biology) for connection and love. This is why we listen deeply to the body’s cues. But, there is also something called “implicit” programming in the brain that can come into play and over-ride healthy impulses towards connection or life-giving choices in order to have us do what the body knows how to do.
This “implicit” memory, (essentially unconscious brain programming) can override appropriate responses in the moment. So, we can find ourselves feeling clear, powerful and strongly guided from within, and then suddenly, an old trigger comes up (a relationship pattern, a life situation) and we are habitually responding in a way that Doesn’t serve our health and well-being. We are essentially responding from past programming that worked Before but is no longer relevant to this present moment.
Implicit memory arises from the “older” parts of the brain, the limbic system, and the instinctual/animal brain. The behaviors that arise out of this unconscious part of the brain are designed to be immediate and pre-programmed, so we don’t need to *think* through all our responses. These pre-programmed responses were mostly laid down in the unconscious at an early age to help us survive and thrive in our family of origin. These are often very fast and unconscious responses to particular situations.
Basically, our body holds memories and programming that tells us how to respond to the world in a particular way. If we are looking to our Knowing around a topic that was fraught in our early life, the feelings and emotional cues we get can be laden with the old story, which is often also linked to long held beliefs like “I’m not loveable” or “they always leave”, or “all big animals are dangerous”.
So let me give you an example of this is:
If you had a bad encounter with a big dog as a kid, your body may have a big fear and retreat response anytime you see a big dog, regardless of how friendly it actually is.
Or if you had a dismissive mother who couldn’t tune into and meet your needs, you may automatically move towards caring for others when you yourself have a need. This is when your implicit memory is taking over from present moment awareness and correct attunement/response.
So how do we work with implicit memory?
We make the unconscious conscious.
We work with implicit memory by creating safety, space and time to make these responses conscious, and to feel those old emotions and sensations in the body, so that they can begin to move out of the unconscious and into your conscious awareness.
Once these implicit memories are more known and met in the consciousness, if/when they do come up again, they don’t hold as much sway over your decision making and you can more authentically feel into the present moment truth for yourself. Into your Knowing.
Please note: we are talking about powerful biological survival drives here.. so I’m not inferring this is a quick fix strategy! This is an ongoing, deepening, empowering relationship with yourself and your animal programming.
So, for example:
This can look like recognizing the fear response in your body as you see a big dog, taking a moment to notice the other things on the scene, like a friendly owner holding the dog on a leash, and soothing yourself by checking for the exit. It can look like being able to choose to hold your fear and notice the dogs eyes are soft and it’s tail is wagging, and move towards it as a safe animal. Or it can look like noticing this dog is a little shifty, so choosing to move away. The point of this is that you are able to take in more of what is actually here, rather than just responding based on your body memories.
Or in the case of relationship, it can look like noticing yourself “over-giving” to another and feeling disconnected from your own experience. You may take a moment to listen in to yourself and notice some sadness and step back to give yourself some empathetic listening. You may even speak your needs to the other person.
The point of this is that you are able to take in more of what is actually here, rather than just your body memories, and respond more authentically in the moment.
To explore one of the areas where implicit memory over-rides your appropriate present-moment responses, I invite you to take a moment to write down what happens for you.
What thoughts do you have, what body sensations,
And then how do you speak or behave when this is active in you?
Please give yourself some good space and time to explore this and allow feelings to arise.
If you want to explore some deep or strong body memories I highly recommend doing so with a safe other.
Implicit memory can be particularly strong for people with early trauma (unsafe environment in childhood) or people who have experienced threatening situations in life. Working with implicit memory can be done in gentle self-inquiry or ideally with a trained therapist in a modality like Somatic Experiencing or the Hakome method. You can see how you can work with me if you feel drawn below.
If you are interested in bringing more awareness and choice to your unconsious responses, I am offering a limited number of discounted Introduction Sessions with me per week, (valid for folk who haven’t worked with me yet). you can find out about the sessions here or:
with love and warm wishes,