Often, when we have unpleasant or frightening experiences, we can’t seem to shake them from our mind. They stick with us.
After a while, the memory of the events may fade. Though, only to suddenly and unexpectedly return with a vengeance due to something we see, hear, or even smell. Instantly, our thoughts get thrown right back to that moment when it all happened, replaying the whole incident over again.
But it isn’t just the memory of that experience which returns. Many times, those same emotions we’ve felt during the original traumatic event flood over us as well. And, in that very moment, we perceive a threat and simply react.
This automatic reaction, in turn, eventually becomes a habit.
Of course, unsettling events that lead to habit-forming reactions do not just include life-threatening experiences, such as natural disasters, accidents, violence, wars, abuse, etc. Trauma can also happen on a smaller scale and influence the way you see your world, what you perceive as a threat, and how you react to a variety of situations.
Rapid Resolution Therapy gives your mind the ability to change what you regard as threatening and experience calm and clarity instead. This transformation is called memory reconsolidation.
How does it work?
Consider the neuroscience behind the RRT memory reconsolidation process.
How Your Brain Cells Communicate
Basically, the human brain is made up of three different sections:
- Brain Stem – This is the area responsible for managing survival needs—breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, body sensations, impulses, instinctive responses, etc. It reacts in an instance when your survival is threatened, without any conscious thought.
- Frontal Cortex – This part handles conscious thoughts and self-awareness, learning, creativity, curiosity, language, and other intellectual functions. It responds much slower than the brain stem area but also much more comprehensively.
- Limbic System – This section regulates emotions and controls implicit memory. Two crucial parts of this section of the brain are the amygdala and the hippocampus. When the amygdala perceives a threat, it sends a fight-flight-or-freeze signal to your body by diverting blood flow to the survival part of the brain (the brain stem) and restricting blood flow from the intellectual part (the frontal cortex). The hippocampus, in contrast, stores short-term memory and regulates the stress response. This provides a frame of reference to experiences for decision-making by linking past memories with present occurrences.
Within these three basic areas exist billions of neurons (brain cells) that are connected to each other through synapses (pathways). These brain cells communicate and pass on information by electrochemical transmission (using a neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger).
The more often brain cells communicate along the same synapses, the stronger their connection becomes and the faster transmission happens. Eventually, the transmission becomes automatic, shaping your perception and reaction to your environment.
This process is called neuroplasticity (plastic = being flexible and moldable) and memory consolidation (consolidate = to set or cement).
How Traumatic Memories Are Stored
When we experience something frightening, unsettling, or simply unpleasant, our brains tend to replay the incident over and over, including the same thoughts and emotions. As mentioned above, this repetition continues to make the synaptic pathways stronger with each pass. In essence, it’s teaching us an automatic response to a threatening incident.
Since the replayed “lesson” typically happens while we are in an emotional state (as the recall of the incident not just comes with associated thoughts but also feelings), neuroscience refers to this as emotional learning.
The automatic response, or habit, this emotionally-based learning creates is then saved in the short-term memory storage area, the hippocampus. However, rather than being eventually discharged to the frontal cortex as long-term memory (as would normally happen), traumatic experiences stay separate (similar to short-term memory) and easily accessible for later recall.
The amygdala uses this emotionally-learned response as a pattern for self-protection. Through the pattern, it prepares for future experiences to identify and immediately respond when similar circumstances happen without your awareness. This can be beneficial or not. That’s because the amygdala doesn’t discriminate. It responds the same to all threats, no matter if they’re real or simply perceived.
How Memory Reconsolidation Through RRT Happens
In the past, scientists concluded that emotional learning could never be changed. As noted, the more often a memory is triggered without being changed (reconsolidated), the stronger the connection between the brain cells becomes and the more enduring that memory will be.
However, in more recent years, research has shown that the way traumatic memories are stored in the brain can be changed through new emotional experiences that contrast previous emotional learning. In essence, memory reconsolidation can change how traumatic memories are stored—from reactive short-term memory to non-reactive long-term memory.
With the help of RRT, a new neural pathway would be created. One that doesn’t include the emotional component (the pain) that was connected to the traumatic memory. While you would still remember the event during which your emotional response was learned, you would no longer have the same reaction to the experience as before. Instead, you would feel peaceful and calm.
How is this accomplished?
There are three steps to memory reconsolidation through Rapid Resolution Therapy:
1. Triggering of the original memory
To remove an unwanted emotional response to a traumatic memory (emotional learning experience), it must first be reactivated, or triggered. However, during an RRT session, the original memory will only be reactivated briefly to access it. This is in contrast to other therapy approaches where revisiting a memory to explore its roots can take a long time and retraumatize you.
2. Mismatching the memory with the response
Once activated, the memory must be destabilized by mismatching the previous emotional learning experience and the automatic response. Mismatching means that your brain will receive information that runs contrary to the expectation pattern it has created from earlier emotional learning—either affirming that the expected outcome will not happen at all or that the magnitude of the outcome will not be as predicted.
This counteractive information comes directly from the RRT therapist. In contrast to how therapists approach treatment through other methods (learning to understand the client and follow their lead), an RRT therapist takes the lead and gives the client a new vocabulary to rewrite their learning experience.
And this interruption of the old connection creates a new synaptic pathway which opens the door to the final step.
3. Revising the response through a new memory
After the memory has been triggered and mismatched, the neural circuits connected to the memory and the associated response are in a deconsolidated state, essentially having become flexible or moldable. This window of opportunity to make changes stays open for five hours. During this time span, the therapist provides the client with more ways to continue rewriting their learning experience.
Afterward, the neural pathways naturally reconsolidate (set or cement the new learning). This new learning can’t be altered until the memory once again is triggered and mismatched.
If the new, counteractive learning occurs within this five-hour window, the previously learned pattern is effortlessly erased and a new pattern put in its place. The result: a complete revision of the original memory and the longstanding response patterns associated with it through a new emotional learning experience.
Experience the Amazing Results of RRT Yourself
Rapid Resolution Therapy has proven successful in treating such issues as anxiety, panic, stress, depression, guilt, shame, grief, addiction, PTSD, and much more. And it works for both children and adults.
While you may be skeptical that any therapy could really produce significant changes so rapidly, clients who have tried RRT time and time again express how quickly they saw a difference in their brain’s response to their memory-based perception of threat.
I would be delighted to help you see the practical application of memory consolidation through RRT. If you would like to learn how to bring peace and calm to your life, please contact me.