Can Memories Really be Changed?

Scientists used to believe that memories are memories, and that they could not be changed. It was believed that memories were recorded in a similar way to a video recording, and that when they were recalled by the conscious mind, they were played back in the same way you would play a video back – exactly the same as the original event, every time.

However, scientists have recently discovered that not only are memories inaccurate and changeable (Read: How Ethical is it to Change Memories? for more information on this), but they can be changed deliberately. In fact, this new scientific discovery has led to several new forms of therapy, including: Memory Reconsolidation.

Can Memories Really be Changed

What is Memory Reconsolidation?

Memory Reconsolidation is a therapy that is based on the new discoveries in neuroscience that have shown that:

  1. Memories are the cause of most behavioral, emotional and mental problems.
  2. Memories can be changed using certain techniques.

Emotional Learnings

As Bruce Ecker, MA, LMFT, co-originator of Coherence Therapy explains, emotional learnings are created without the involvement of the conscious mind. These learnings, also known as core beliefs and emotional conditioning, happen automatically as a result of experiences throughout life.

These learnings are stored in the brain on neural circuits, and when the person experiences the trigger, those neural circuits fire automatically, resulting in the response – without the knowledge of the conscious mind. The fact that the conscious mind is unaware of this automation means the individual has no option to use reason, logic or willpower to counteract the automated response.

As Ecker points out, learning new, positive alternative responses is not enough since these new neural connections will form separately from the old ones. This is what then causes the inconsistencies in behaviors and new habits as the person tries to change.

The conscious mind makes the choice to take action on the new behavior (causing the new circuitry to fire) but the old circuit is still in play; and when the conscious mind is not fully concentrating, or has depleted willpower due to low glucose levels, or other factors, the old circuit will automatically fire – causing the old behavior.

Since the old circuit is stronger, having been wired over a longer period of time, it is much harder for the person to resist it and stick to the new behavior.

The solution, Ecker explains, is to replace the old circuitry – to build the new neural circuit on top of the old one. In other words – rather than create a new memory, replace the old memory with the new one.

How Emotional Learnings are Created

Here’s an example of how an emotional learning develops:

Angela was very excited about her 6th birthday party – she had been looking forward to it for what seemed like forever. Her dad had promised that he would be there (he had moved out of the house 18 months before), and her mother had invited all Angela’s friends from school – almost all of them were able to come. Angela felt like she was going to burst from excitement.

Finally, the day arrived. Angela woke up early, and was dressed and ready hours before her guests were due to arrive. The party was in full swing, and Angela was enjoying it immensely, when she heard raised voices. She followed them through to the kitchen, where she saw her mother and father in a heated argument. Her father stormed out angrily.

Angela, being 6, assumed it was her fault. Consciously, her mind didn’t know what to think, but her body was in full fight-freeze-or-flight. She felt frozen with the fear that she would never see her father again. Her subconscious, having no ability to use logic or reason, put together all of the pieces of the experience, filtered them through the existing data it already held from Angela’s life so far, and created a survival tactic to avoid this danger in the future.

Angela’s subconscious created a memory that, if understood consciously and verbalized, would say something like: “If I get too happy or enjoy myself too much, bad things will happen”.  This is one of Angela’s emotional learnings. And it has affected her experiences and decisions throughout her life – without her knowledge.

That moment in Angela’s life has long been forgotten by her conscious mind; however, the emotional learning is still maintained in her subconscious. Angela never seems to really enjoy herself. She seems to always find something to feel bad about. Even when things are going well, she feels a sense of doom and an expectation for it to all go wrong somehow.

If Angela were to change that memory – to rewire those particular circuits in her brain – the resulting symptom of not being able to enjoy herself, and feeling a sense of doom whenever things are going well, would disappear. In other words, if that memory was changed to represent her having a great time at the party, and that the incident with her father hadn’t happened, her issues with enjoying herself would automatically disappear because there would be no longer be a reference for them.

Ecker says: “As soon as a given symptom’s underlying learnings are dissolved, and no longer exist, the symptom simply stops and disappears.”

How to Change Emotional Learnings

As Ecker says about an emotional learning: “It’s learned. It’s stored in memory on neural circuits, and it’s what generates so many of the behaviors, moods, thoughts and emotions that show up on the surface the people see therapists for.” In order to change these learnings, we need to change the existing memories, rather than create new ones.

To effectively and quickly change existing emotional learnings, think about the problem (the symptom) you want to address. Fortunately, if you use FasterEFT to address it, you don’t need to know what the original learning is; you only need to know how you know you have the problem.

As you think about the problem, notice how you feel, where in your body you feel the feeling, and how strong it is. This is how you aim – you are directing your subconscious, using your conscious focus, to the particular learning you want it to change.

Then, follow the FasterEFT process to clear and flip the feeling and any memories that come up. Because of the structure of emotional learnings, the subconscious will start to bring to your conscious mind any memories, thoughts and feelings that are connected to the topic.

Use the FasterEFT technique to address each one. As you clear and flip the memories, the symptoms will automatically change accordingly since the original learnings will have been changed. For more information on flipping memories using FasterEFT read: Why do We Flip Memories in FasterEFT?

From now on, whenever you experience anything that bothers you – no matter what it is – use the FasterEFT technique in the moment to clear and change the emotional learnings behind it. If you are in public, or are unable to tap physically for some other reason, use Mental Tapping instead.

For more information on Bruce Ecker’s work with memory reconsolidation therapy: Coherence Psychology Institute

For more information on how and why FasterEFT works read: The REAL Cause of All Your Problems.

For a detailed guide to using the technique read: The FasterEFT Technique – Step-by-Step.

To see FasterEFT in action, watch the videos in the FasterEFT in Action Playlist.

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