Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Implicit Memories

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on February 12, 2014

Christopher Bollas (1987) says “the news from within” to imply that thoughts and feelings come from all directions, with explicit memory, memory we experience as a “memory” and implicit memory, as presuming that things must have historical significance, even though we are not clear on the history. Jews who hid during the Spanish Inquisition still maintained Sabbath rituals, and as future generations came, the lighting of the Sabbath candles had emotional significance without a tie to a narrative history. These Jews tell stories of tearing up hearing Hebrew prayers, without knowing why. The feeling came through, but the narrative was lost. This experience allows for speculation as to what this intense emotion is about. Linda, sixty-two, pops to mind. Lois, her dear friend, just loss her grandchild to a brain tumor. Linda pulled away and avoided Lois, but she was unsure why she felt incapable of talking to her about this loss. As she leaves my office, she begins to think about her second trimester fetal demise which happened forty years ago. She never thinks about that, she told me, but like a tidal wave, the memories of those horrible feelings came flooding back after our discussion about the devastation of losing a child. Linda’s avoidance, uncharacteristic of her typical devotion to her friends, might have been related to an implicit memory of losing her fetus. She felt like she could not cope with thinking about the death of this child, and through our work, she was able to see what this triggered for her. The implicit memory became explicit, and as a result, she could then allow herself to be there for Lois. ¬†Uncovering the reasons for her avoidance, with the subsequent guilt, that she was abandoning her friend, enabled her to take the high road and deal with her difficult feelings, while at the same time, offer Lois much needed support. Linda was able to tune into the “news from within”.

2 Responses to “Implicit Memories”

  1. Shelly said

    So very interesting. And Lois would never have been the wiser, just thinking that Linda was cold and heartless when she needed her friend the most. At least she had the empathy to feel guilt over abandoning Lois in her time of need.

    • Yes, indeed. Linda’s acknowledgment and understanding of her guilt allowed her entry into her interior. Tolerating difficult feelings is often the key to deeper relationships.

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