memories

The Heart of the Matter: Understanding the Body’s Memory Bank

Isn’t it fascinating how our bodies seem to carry the echoes of our past experiences? They’re like silent witnesses to every moment, storing away memories and emotions in the nooks and crannies of our muscles and bones. But have you ever wondered why our bodies have this remarkable ability? What purpose does it serve, and how does it shape the way we navigate the world around us?

To understand why our bodies hold onto our experiences so tightly, we need to look at the role of our nervous system. From the moment we’re born, our bodies are wired to respond to the world around us, constantly scanning for threats and opportunities. When we encounter something new or unexpected, our nervous system springs into action, sending signals to various parts of our body to prepare for whatever comes next. This is known as the fight-or-flight response, and it’s a fundamental survival mechanism that has helped humans navigate dangerous situations for thousands of years.

But our bodies aren’t just wired to respond to external threats; they’re also finely attuned to our internal world of thoughts and emotions. When we experience something that triggers a strong emotional response, whether it’s a moment of joy, sadness, fear, or anger, our bodies react in kind. Our heart rate may increase, our muscles may tense up, and our breathing may become shallow. These physical changes are not just random; they’re our body’s way of preparing us to cope with the emotional intensity of the moment.

memories

But the purpose of our body’s ability to hold onto our experiences goes beyond mere survival. It’s also a key part of how we make sense of the world and our place in it. Our bodies serve as a kind of living record of our lives, carrying with them the stories of who we are and where we’ve been. When we encounter a familiar song or smell, it’s like flipping through the pages of a scrapbook, reliving those moments all over again. And while this can sometimes be painful, it can also be incredibly healing, allowing us to revisit past traumas and come to terms with them in a new light.

n the end, our bodies are more than just flesh and bone; they’re vessels of memory, emotion, and experience. They have a way of weaving the threads of our past into the fabric of our present, shaping the way we see ourselves and the world around us. And while it can be tempting to try to escape the weight of our past, perhaps the real challenge is learning to embrace it—to acknowledge the stories our bodies hold and to recognise the strength and resilience they represent. So the next time you find yourself caught up in a wave of emotion or memory, take a moment to honor the wisdom of your body. It may just have a story to tell you.

Movember

Movember 2022

Since 2003 Aussie men have been growing mows or supporting the men who do. The purpose: raising money for Movember. The brainchild was developed in a good old Aussie pub in 1999. Eighty men were growing moustaches in Adelaide and were raising awareness for some male issues. I wonder if either of those two groups ever thought it would grow to be supported in over 20 countries. They have raised over $837 million and have 6,758,699 members. What an achievement!

What is Movember?

Men’s issues are rarely spoken of. Yes, we are improving. We still have a long way to go. Movember is a movement to open the doors of conversation around prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s mental health.

Men have the highest rate of suicide in the country. The Australian Bureau of Statics (ABS) is yet to release its 2021-2022 data. However, in 2020, 3139 lives were lost to suicide, of which 2384 were men with a median age of 43.6 years (you can read the report here). This equates to a man every minute worldwide.

Why are we not talking about men’s mental health?

Overall, mental health distress in Australia is increasing, and honestly, I do not see a decline any time soon. We know lockdowns and isolation have increased mental health issues in Australia. You do not need statistics to tell you this, you only need to talk to anyone on the street or look at the data released by Lifeline earlier in the year. You can listen to my views about Australia’s mental health system here, it was posted to Facebook in Aug 2021.

Consequently, the ABS data on mental health was last released in 2018 (you can find the data here). We know women experience higher levels of mental health distress, however, you do need to ask the question –

Are men honest in answering their survey questions, and are they seeking help?

Why do we need to ask if men are being honest?

A study by Benita Chatmon in 2020 revealed in America; men were four times more likely to die by suicide than women. Death by alcohol was at a rate of 62,000 men compared to 26,000 women. Men are more likely to misuse drugs two to three times more than women (study here). Are we still to believe the mental health statistics? I, for one, do not, and all the studies I have read on the topic over many years all state the same results.

You would think in 2022, our boys and men would be released from the stigma society has placed on them. They haven’t. The men I see in my counselling room also share with me that we haven’t.

Stigma? What is this about?

Firstly, which definition of ‘stigma’ would you like to go with? The Cambridge Dictionary defines stigma as

  • a strong lack of respect for a person or a group of people or a bad opinion of them because they have done something society does not approve of,

and

  • a strong feeling of disapproval that most people in a society have about something, especially when this is unfair.

As a society, we are governed by others. What they think of us and what we think of them. Men, especially, are viewed as weak or broken if they struggle with mental health. Our boys were raised on words such as:

  • Boys don’t cry
  • You throw like a girl
  • Don’t be a sissy
  • Boys will be boys
  • Man up
  • Don’t be a sook

With this type of programming, how can we expect men to want to show their feelings or emotions, not to mention when they do, they are often ridiculed for it.

On top of men feeling weak if they seek counselling, men often feel an intense level of shame. How much of a man can you be if you are needing someone to help you, or even feeling depressed for that matter? After all, men are meant to be stoic and unbreakable; they dare not show any vulnerability! All of this shoving down of emotions leads to substance abuse to numb the uncomfortable emotions; who can blame them?

Removing the stigma means we must discuss men’s mental health more. It needs to be an open conversation, just like those men did in Adelaide. They were brave and authentic. More so, they realised it is not healthy to hold feelings internal and death with the dramas and traumas of life alone.

Are you talking to your mates? Are you talking to your sons? Are you talking to your brothers about mental health? If not, why not?

How to participate in Movember!

You can sign up and pledge here. Grab your mates, get growing that facial hair and raise some money for a worthy cause.

Start from a clean-shaven face; no cheating now.

Post photos, videos, reels, anything of the amazing hair appearing on that upper lip. Have fun with your posts – grab the attention of those around you!

Grab your donors early, or build them as you go. Talk to everyone about why you are growing this amazing piece of hair art. Get family and friends on board – create a team! Get all the men in your network growing and donate to support each other.

Host events – remember, the more creative you are, the more fun it is. I’m sure your upper lip artwork will appreciate it and grow quicker.

I’d love to see your images.

Grow the mow and help men’s mental health

We Walk With You Inner Child Featured Image

How to heal your inner child

Ah, the inner child—that magical place in all of us where joy, wonderment and creativity flow freely. It’s also where we can get stuck if we’ve had a traumatic past. Adults are taught to ignore or repress their feelings to function in society. But when it comes to healing from trauma, it helps to give your inner child some attention and care. Here are some techniques for how to do just that:

Recognise what you’re feeling.

When you are feeling something, it’s important first to understand what that feeling is. For example, if someone says something that upsets you or makes you upset, ask yourself:

  • What am I feeling? How do I know it’s anger?
  • How does it feel in my body? Do any parts of my body tense up when I’m angry? Is there a knot in my stomach or chest? Am I breathing differently than usual?
  • What is the difference between being angry and acting on the anger (i.e., yelling at someone)? Does the feeling fade away in a few minutes, or does it stay longer than usual with each day that passes by without relief from whatever caused me to be angry in the first place?

Embrace the feeling.

When you’re feeling a lot of shame, it’s natural to want to push the feeling away. But this isn’t helpful. You can’t get rid of your inner child, and trying to push her away creates more shame. Instead, embrace your inner child. Treat her like a friend or a small child who needs comfort and care from you, her parent figure in this situation (you).

Try not to think about how shameful it feels when she cries; instead, just let her cry until she stops crying—and then some more if she needs more time than that! It’s important that you take care of yourself when dealing with feelings like these:

  • Take breaks between sessions if necessary—baths are especially good for this purpose
  • Go for walks outside (if weather permits)
  • Take naps whenever possible (if possible)
  • Read books that make you feel better

Name it.

  • What is the feeling?
  • What is the cause of the feeling?
  • What do you want to do with the feeling?
  • What does it feel like in my body?
  • How does looking at this emotion make me feel on a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 means “bad” and 10 means “good” (if possible)

There are only two rules for naming your feelings: First, make sure that you can name them accurately. Second, don’t judge yourself for having them. There’s no need to be hard on yourself or criticise how you’re feeling; just observe these emotions as they come up in your life and notice how they affect your actions and behaviours moving forward.

Talk to yourself.

It’s time to get real with yourself.

When you talk to yourself, do it like you’d talk to your best friend—as if you care about what they’re feeling. When we communicate in this manner, it is easier to hear what we are saying and how we feel.

Ask questions like: “How am I doing?” “How can I improve?” “What do I need right now?”

Imagine your inner child’s needs being met.

Inner children need to feel safe, loved, and understood. If you can’t imagine what your inner child needs to feel safe and loved, imagine that some part of you knew exactly what they needed—that would be an excellent starting point. If this isn’t possible for you, it’s okay! You can still work on healing your inner child by imagining that someone else is meeting this need for them.

You can heal from the traumas of the past with some creativity and compassion for yourself.

It’s important to understand that you can heal and that it’s possible for everyone. You may think this isn’t true for you because it doesn’t feel possible in your case, but trust me—you’re not alone. Over 90% of people have experienced trauma at some point in their life! It’s important to realize that there is no right or wrong way to do this; the only requirement is to allow ourselves time and space (and maybe a therapist if needed) to explore our feelings about childhood experiences and move forward as adults.

Let me be clear: Healing does not mean forgetting what happened or pretending like nothing happened at all; healing means being able to acknowledge those painful memories as part of who we are today without letting them define us forevermore into adulthood simply because they happened when we were kids.

It’s good to know that you’re not alone in your journey to healing. We’ve all been there and done that, so it’s nothing ordinary. I hope these tips help you on your path towards healing and self-love!

Inner child work is a different avenue from traditional talk therapy around trauma. If you are curious or ready to try a different way, reach out today. Let’s walk together and get in touch with your inner child.