Re-living trauma, replays of old experiences
All my life I have had a “running dialogue” in my head. I hear every thought, and I am always thinking. Since I function best using words, this is understandable to me.
I have also had continual “loops” of old bad experiences shove themselves into my conscious thoughts regularly. I “replay” the upset, the angst, the pain, the fear over and over.
I came to the conclusion after my diagnosis, that this is my brain looking for answers about what happened, and seeking answers about how to avoid repeating what happened.
It is my understanding through discussion with others on the online forum groups that I attend, that this is a common experience.
Re-living trauma, pain, angst, anger, and upset is evidently a side effect of poor processing and misunderstanding. It is as if our minds still try to sort the event out and to come up with a “better ending” or new understanding.
This might be a sort of perpetual attempt to process something that is not comprehensible.
I have ( and had ) a lot of “loops” replaying old pains and fears.
These things happened before I knew about my autism and before I understood my very slow to non-existing processing of “real life” interactions.
There were perpetual misunderstandings, I was forever reacting in ways that angered others due to my own misunderstandings (and eventually to my angry frustration and almost instant defensiveness whenever anyone approached me).
I was ready to be attacked, assumed that I would be attacked and constantly vigilant to escape through the mal-adapted means I had developed as I grew up.
In interacting with other autistic people in forums, asking questions, etc, I have learned that this is a common and distressing side effect of our autism. All those replays pushing for attention, replaying the hurts and the angers and fears over and over. It became a sort of habit to re-live those experiences and to repeatedly come to the conclusion that others were hostile and out to get me.
Traumatic confirmation bias, and a self fulfilling cycle, however unsatisfactory. I was stuck on “hold” continually re-living old pains and traumas.
That was before I knew about being autistic.
Knowing my autism diagnosis gave me new perspective on these old hurts, and these constant reminders of my inability to defend myself, my complete incompetence to deal with people in almost any upset situation, my lack of ability to understand what had happened, and why.
I was not able then to see how my autism (and theirs, too) sometimes got in the way of communication, resulting in misunderstandings, angry flare ups and worse.
After learning of my autism, I began to allow those memories “head space” instead of trying to avoid them. ( something I was never really able to do).
As I faced the memories one by one, I was able to take each apart in little bits and to see how autism had added confusion, anger, misunderstanding, mis-comunication, hurt feelings and so much more to the original “triggering incident”.
Once I was able to figure out “what happened” I have been able to set that particular memory aside.
If I am sure I can not fix it, can not change the outcome, can not do a thing about it all these years later, then I deliberately file that memory into a metaphoric file
(remember I think in words, not pictures) that I created in my mind.
You may find it helpful to actually picture a file with a label on it and the memory as a paper, or other item and actually visualize this part, if that is the way your mind works.
I take my painful memory, which I now have new understanding of, and I file it in that metaphoric file, which I call “finished business”.
If that particular memory presents itself in my mind again, I remind myself that it is “finished business” and immediately send it back to that file.
Over the course of about three years since I have been practicing this method, I am finding more peace and having far fewer intrusive bad memories. I allow the memory “head space” until I have examined it with my new understanding, if I can not change anything now, but I know and understand more about “how or why it happened”, I can safely ask it to go to the “finished business” file and to stay there.
In many online conversations with others on these self help, self support ” by autistics and for autistics” forums, I have explained how I do this, and I have got good feedback from others about its usefulness as a tool to help find peace and self understanding.
Diagnosis is the key to self understanding.
I realized recently that I might not have mentioned this method for dealing with old pains on this blog in the past and thought it might be something useful for others with painful and distressing memories to try.
Hoping you too will find this helpful.
Today is the first day of spring 2021. May you continue to grow and bloom!
New beginnings and new and better life, growth, and renewal are possible through diagnosis.