To write an effective life story, a writer must be a certain distance from the event – in time, in location, in emotional space. A novice author can hardly expect to organize material well enough to write a gripping narrative while still suffering from the psychic effects of destruction or violence. Yet, people do manage to write memoirs that describe survival from war, hostage-taking, and other life-threatening situations.
People who have gone through these events are sometimes so deeply scarred that they cannot recall them; or, if they can, their memories remain too chaotic to write about. On the other hand, people have been known to come through disturbing events with a heightened consciousness and what appear to be accurate, indelible memories.
Many people need psychological help to cope with their memories. Others, who simply want to get beyond them, look for ways to alter or delete them. That possibility, once a science-fiction dream, now seems attainable.
These links look at various aspects of this topic
The surprising link between stress and memory
An animated TED talk illustrating how experience becomes memory and explaining how stress interferes with the process.
Vivid memories remain long after sexual assault
Sexual assault is one of the most violent, and unfortunately common, experiences for women everywhere on earth. This research examines how memories of the experience outlast many other kinds of memories, and remain more vivid as well.
We saw nuns kill children: The ghosts of St. Joseph’s Catholic orphanage
A lengthy investigative report focusing on alleged child sexual abuse at Catholic institutions around the world, with detailed examples from a single orphanage in Vermont. The story touches on repressed memories and the legitimacy of recovered memories, as well as the legal consequences of bringing illegal activities to light years after they were committed.
Harvard psychology professor discusses how trauma affects memory
Why sexual assault memories stick
Two articles examining the physical and psychological factors that affect memory after a traumatic event.
Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford describes memory science, hippocampus in emotional Senate testimony
Why assault memories are ‘indelible’ for some survivors and other details may be lacking
Two responses to a real-life drama, including a first-hand account of how traumas are imprinted in the brain and explaining why memories of trauma differ from other types of memories.
PEACE OF MIND: Trauma can affect the memory of victims and victimizers
Some observations breaking down the way memory works, and explaining why neither victims nor victimizers emerge from trauma in predictable ways.
Memory loss and brain shrinkage associated with stress: Study
Increased levels of cortisol associated with stress have been found to affect far more health factors than blood pressure, including memory. The consequences of residual high levels are significant.