In the last blog we looked at how to match a trigger in the present with a memory from the past. This activity is about using your pre-frontal cortex and your Limbic system structures to match a trigger with a memory.
The goal is to provide clarity in terms of a response on your part and to reduce anxiety so you can make better decisions.
Let’s assume you have met the perfect woman. She is attractive, you find her to be kind, you like the way she cooks and you like the way she is compassionate toward others. She is able to take care of her own affairs and is fiscally responsible. She is in good overall health and she like her family of origin. She has issues with things from her past, but overall she feels she did relatively well with her childhood.
So, why don’t you just go for it and make this a permanent thing? You’ve been dating for about a year now.
Oops, I forgot to mention one thing. You noticed something with her that is uncomfortable to talk to your friends about. She is overly sexual. Now, most guys would love this, right? But, you have found she would prefer to have sex all the time and something about her behavior makes you feel uncomfortable.
You also forgot to mention that she has had a lot of jobs that only last a few months and she moves on to something new. Well, she is in her twenties, isn’t she?
Lastly, you forgot to mention that one time (perhaps more than once) she hit you after you were out boozing with your buddies. She came unglued and hit you with fists and all. She then refused to leave your apartment and she berated you for hours until you fell to the floor in a pile of tears and shame.
Whew! I hope this didn’t hurt too much.
But, you say, you love her. You also have not proceeded with a commitment.
Each of these things about her are red flags. A red flag means STOP.
On your side of the relational equation there are some things you might want to look at. Remember your history and some of the significant life events that have taken place for you. This is your inventory. It will be used to construct the crime scene. It will also be used to return to the scene of the crime and to assist you on not returning to the scene of the crime in your current relationships.
CRIME SCENE INVENTORY
NAME: John Jake Doe
AGE: 28 years and 4 months
SIGNIFICANT LIFE EVENTS:
Parents divorced when you were four.
Father and you have an awkward and estranged relationship.
You almost died in a car accident while with your dad and paternal grandfather. Grandfather pulled you to safety. Father went numb.
At age 11 you and your mother moved to France for a year. You are now fluent in French, but the move was a cultural shock.
At age 12 you were back in the USA and in a new school, new town, and met new friends.
You befriend a little guy with thick rimmed glasses who was being bullied by the “know it all wannabes.”
The bullies decide to target you, because you shouldn’t be trying to prevent them from being bullies.
Eight of them catch you one day in the photography darkroom. They kick and hit you and leave you in a pile on the floor.
You have to go to the emergency room.
One year later you have surgery to repair a torn hydrocele.
You and your mother move to another town.
You kind of, sort of recover, but have a tendency to look over your shoulder and to be a bit “overly sensitive” to comments by peers.
You excel academically.
You graduate high school.
You start college.
You start dating.
You start drinking and experimenting with drugs.
You meet Katie, the girl described earlier.
CRIME SCENE MATCH LIST
Katie has hit you.
Katie has berated you.
Katie is inserting herself in your drinking event. A “NO NO” per AA and Alanon.
Katie has unstable parts to her presentation such as multiple jobs, her use of physical aggression, and not talking to you about your preference for sexuality. It is, after all, a two way street.
Katie confuses you. You know you sometimes drink too much and you already feel guilt and shame about this. She makes it about her.
MEMORY CARD MATCHES
PAST MEMORY CARD #1 Physical harm, injury, and pain.
PAST MEMORY CARD #2 Lack of regard from significant others who should show care and concern.
PAST MEMORY CARD #3 When doing the right thing you can get hurt. Being bullied.
PAST MEMORY CARD #4 Your testicle (maleness) was injured and repaired through a painful surgery. More physical pain.
Present Memory Card Match#1 Katie physically has hit you. This is a match to your Past Memory. You will be triggered by her. A trigger is intended to keep you safe, get your attention, and hopefully your pre-frontal cortex will take over and do some problem solving here.
Present Memory Card Match #2 Katie does not ask about your sexual frequency preference. She is assuming you are a male and that all males want sex all the time. She is not focusing on you and what you want. This is a trigger and the pre-frontal cortex needs to come in and work with the Limbic system at this point. You are being triggered for the right reason; this is not a false alarm.
Present Memory Card Match #3 Katie may be a bit of a bully herself. Pay attention. Why has she had so many jobs? This is your life and you have lots of choices. It doesn’t have to be Katie.
Present Memory Card Match #4 When Katie hit you it triggered the physical pain memory stored in your Limbic structures. When she berated you for hours it was bullying and abusive. It doesn’t matter that you drank. This is your demon to deal with, not Katie’s. Her refusal to leave and insistence on hours of verbal abuse challenged your manhood just like the testicle being damaged.
More on emotional pairing of crimes scenes in the next blog.
Be well and take care,
Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD
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Last reviewed: 27 Jun 2012