The Emerging Field of Psychotraumatology in Canada

Posted by: Linda AK Thompson on December 19, 2012 3:13 pm

Reflections of a Trauma Nurse/Counsellor’s Academic, Research & Clinical Experiences: Trauma Memories [TM]

Experts assert that traumatic memory [TM], unlike ordinary memory, may not be altered by the passage of time.  Some argue that traumatic memory is ‘frozen in time or timeless, inflexible, invariable, and immutable or not capable or susceptible to change’ [1].

TM’s are believed to be unique memories that resist integration or are dissociated from ordinary verbal, autobiographical memory (AM).  The theory of state-dependent memory, learning and behavior and model of ideodynamic healing [2] is devoted to understanding and treating TM.  The lack of proper integration of intensely emotional arousing experiences noted in traumatic events into the memory system (AM), results in dissociation and the formation of TM protected by amnesic barriers.

The consequence of dissociation of TM, especially clients with complex, posttraumatic stress and dissociative symptomology or disorders, is that the various components are also dissociated from one another (fragmented).  These dissociated verbal memory fragments, in turn, are dissociated from affect (feelings), beliefs, and the somatosensory (body, 5 senses) dimensions of being plus one’s behaviours associated with the traumatic experiences.  Each dimension is in turn dissociated from one another or the sense of self is unaware of the other.  In Jungian psychology this is referred to as the unconscious or shadow. 

Non-verbal dimensions of TM, referred to as ‘behavioral memory of trauma’ or the unconscious shadow, exerts a powerful, but implicit influence on ordinary consciousness and behavior.  The major consequence of dissociated TM is the lack of integrated into one’s conscious self- representation or self-image.  This disintegrated sense of self is an alternate state of consciousness or personality formation commonly called alters.  State-dependent memory, learning and behaviour [2] and ideodynamic healing addresses the creation of separate states of consciousness; the alter states and beliefs created to survive overwhelming traumatic events.

Therefore, trauma counsellors know that retrieval of TM is state and/or context dependent.  Trauma counsellors encourage clients engaged in traumatic stress treatment to find their voice while noting specific sensory-perceptual cues.  These cues are triggers indicating emerging body memories capable of promoting retrieval of traumatic recollections.  The emergence, retrieval and integration of TM remains specialized, deep, soulful, shadow-land material and work [3].  The creative use of artistic expression/projective assessments:  drawing one’s core sense of self and/or poetic interludes are standard pieces of trauma work utilized during emotional overwhelm and traumatic stress treatment.  The breakdown of trauma amnesia barriers and emergence of cues, triggers, flashbulb and/or fragmented memories of altered states can be frightening and re-traumatizing without due care and attention. 

Patience, pace and timing is absolutely essential during Crisis, Phase 1 Stabilization Treatment.

Examples of Poetic Interludes: [4]

Disconnected:  My thoughts swirl around in my head like fallen leaves in a vacant lot.  Dizziness overtakes me in over-cast shades of grey.  My memories overlap one another creating clouded visions.  Particles of my yester years float in mid-space attaching themselves to the corners of my mind.

I want to be bonded to a tranquil state of thought.  But, I am without adhesive.  My perceptions are refracted in ambiguity and disenchantment.  I am a vagabond, whose ideas do not correlate within this realm.  The urgency to be grounded escapes me.  I am without connection.  I am unplugged.

Poet: contained in case file: NCS #67 and written in 1994.  This piece comes from the heart of an abandoned infant who became an out-of-country adoption into a Caucasian family system.  She became an estranged young adult.  This middle-aged woman of color presented to NCS with a legacy of distain for her own skin color, suffered from addictive behaviours and contemplated suicide.

Haunted Houses:  I never got to be a kid.  They never showed me how.  Whatever I did then was wrong.  I’m paying for it now.  I thought I kept a tiny piece of my soul I could sell.  It turned out I was short on cash.  I guess it’s just as well.

You get what you can pay for.  You get what you deserve.  I tried to replace confidence with huge amounts of nerve.  Then one night in the dark I was on a single lane.  I looked into my rear view mirror and there it was again.

It’s true that you can run, but also true that you can’t hide.  Because everything you’re running from your carrying inside.  I thought that I was tough enough to drive those demons down.  I found out life’s a circus and I guess that I’m a clown.

Poet: contained in case file NCS #209 and written in 1996.  The client asked me for a response:

I thank you for this piece you share with others who may also know the cost.  The kids inside who dare to speak past pains that show.  Our children are naïve, innocent and alive, not wrong, no need to pay.  Your soul is safe, continue to strive, love your child, savour that day.

Bad things happen to good people for free – rich, poor, the timid and brave, even me.  The paths we journey are endlessly vast, most new, some connections to our past.  Get off that dark road, fine one with light.  Cleanse the inside, outside, daytime and night.  The demons represent a secret bottled up inside.  The word is a sword to deliver the spirits of you and me and life is the gift of breath where doves fly free.

Author:  Dr. Linda AK Thompson, BGS, MA, CCC, PsyD, FAAETS  Owner, Matrix of Trauma (© MOT ™):  Research, Advocacy, Healing


  1. Brown, D.P.; Scheflin, A.W., & Hammond, D.C. (1998).  Memory, Trauma Treatment and the Law.  W.W. Norton & Co., Inc.:  ISBN 0-393-70254-5    
  2. Rossi, Ernest L.; Cheek, David, B. (1994). Mind-body Therapy: Methods of Ideodynamic Healing in Hypnosis.  Norton: ISBN-10: 039331247X
  3. Shadow Psychology:
  4. Thompson, Linda A.K. (1996).  The Matrix of Trauma:  A dissertation – partial fulfilment for requirements for degree of doctor of psychological traumatology in psychological assessments and etymology.  © Unpublished/Sealed.  Summit University of Louisiana, New Orleans:  Louisiana.


*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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