Remembrance & Imagination

In a week where we have Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day, it seems right to think about memories – those we have as individuals and those we share with others.  Some things should never be forgotten, such as every life lost in conflict around the globe and the sacrifices made by so many.  Yet the memory of negative events can cast a particularly long shadow.  It is not always easy to let go of them but if we understand a little more about the effect they have on us and how they are processed by our brain, it can help us to deal with them more appropriately.

Did you know that, in certain circumstances, our brains do not distinguish between what is real and what is imagined?  For example, whether you are actually facing a stressful situation right now or imagining it happening, your brain will still produce stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.  So if we rerun a memory of something that brought us pain, made us sad or terribly afraid, it is as if we are reliving those same feelings and emotions all over again.  Think of the shell-shocked soldiers from World War I.  It’s also true for those who suffer with what we now term PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) where intrusive memories and debilitating negative responses continue to impact daily life.  The same happens when we imagine a negative event that might happen in the future: we can have a very real physical reaction, as anyone suffering from anxiety, panic attacks or specific phobias will confirm.

The good news is that there are times when this reality vs imagination process can be beneficial.  For instance, when we experience tender feelings towards someone or something that we love, our brain and body produce oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the ‘hug hormone’ or ‘cuddle chemical’, which gives us a sense of wellbeing and bonding.  If we vividly imagine that same tenderness, oxytocin and its benefits will still be produced even though the object of our love may not be physically present.

We can even use the imaginative ability of our brain to help us improve our physical skills in sport, music, public speaking and many other areas.  This is where Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can be particularly effective, allowing us to harness the amazing power of our brain and live life as the best version of ourselves.

(Photo by corina ardeleanu on Unsplash)