"Finding Dory" Brings Up a Good Question: What Can Lead to Having Repressed Memories?
© Michelle Chan
*Disclaimer: Spoiler Alert!*
Isn't it amazing how despite not being able to have conscious memories of her past for so long that Dory is then able to sense deep inside of her that something was "missing"? As Dory goes through the physical journey of searching for her parents, she simultaneously goes through an emotional journey as well. Her memory becomes triggered by certain locations, animals, things (e.g. shells), etc. leading her to be able to recollect memories that have long been repressed and/or forgotten.
While many believe it's far-fetched to have repressed memories that surface many years later, it is definitely a possibility. When scary, shocking, or traumatic things occur, it may be too overwhelming to deal or cope with at that moment. Thus, these memories either become unconsciously repressed or consciously suppressed for the time being, until we are more ready to cope or address what has happened.
Many times, parents and caregivers believe that if something frightening happened to an infant or a young child that it would not significantly impact them because they don't know what's going on anyways. However, that could not be any further from the truth. Even though infants and young children may not be able to verbalize what they saw, heard, or experienced during the incident or incidences, their bodies know. They may shy away from certain individuals, cower behind furniture or people when certain sounds or noises are heard, and/or dislike physical touch or affection, all without knowing or being able to explain why themselves. Sometimes, the memories never resurface, but it just stays in their bodies affecting them in ways they're not aware of. Or it could be just like with Dory, where things or incidences may occur that trigger past memories to come rushing back. And other times, these vivid memories and recollections of certain events have been with them all along, but they just didn't have the words to verbalize what happened or how it impacted them until they are much older and able to make sense of it all.
The following video provides a wealth of information on child and brain development. If anything, watch the first 4 minutes of it to see and understand how scary events can significantly impact an infant even more than a young child!
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Michelle Chan, M.A., LMFT