tapping into sense-memory*

*Phrase I totally stole off Aleks Voinov.  He’s welcome.

This idea of tapping into sense-memory came up during a chat we had about Aleks and Rachel Haimowitz’s Break and Enter.

I can’t lie.  The story freaked me out.  Well, that’s not *entirely* true.  It was only a certain aspect which gave me the heebie jeebies and here’s the reason why:

I’ve only just now realised what it was. It was how vivid the imagery was re: the gloves. I could not only see it, but feel it. It made me feel nauseous.

I couldn’t work out why, but taking a step back and thinking about it I now understand it was a reaction to a past memory I have when, as a child, I badly burned one of my hands on an iron. The wrapping, the changes of dressing, the healing process, etc.

Fascinating association, but still freaks me out.

Yep, it definitely does.

It was not long after this that I picked up Jenny (‘The Bloggess’) Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.  I was having the absolute time of my life reading her story and then…

Her description of what it’s like to have an anxiety attack.

And that was it.

I couldn’t read anything beyond the first couple of lines.  It was too real.

So much so that I haven’t been able to open the book again.  In fact, as I write this, my heart is pounding at the thought of even attempting to reread this particular section.

As much as I realise it’s not the most rational of responses, it taps into my memories.  It reminds me of the thoughts, the feelings and the physical symptoms I had during those experiences.

Two very personal and very intense reactions to two very different books.  Interesting, yes?

It made me wonder how many other readers have felt the same thing and so I thought I’d ask.  Being nosy and all.

Please only share if you are up to it as such reminders of past events can be extremely vivid and emotional.  Something about which I am more than aware.

About Kris

Reads, rants, randoms & R+s. You've been warned. BTW, don't follow me if you're a GLBTQQphobic wanker. It won't end well. For you.
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13 Responses to tapping into sense-memory*

  1. Tam says:

    Off hand I can’t think of a particular moment, but then I had a pretty uneventful life. However, I can see how strong imagery could certainly trigger memories for people. I have had moments when reading that really bothered me and I’m not sure if it’s a memory trigger or a fear of something happening trigger. Sort of that fear that a particular situation (usually more emotional than physical) could happen to me. I don’t worry someone will stalk me or shoot at me or aliens will abduct me, but some scenes involving emotionally abusive situations can really bother me, even though *knock on wood* I’ve not had to deal with that, but it seems to be a trigger for me anyway. In another life perhaps?

    • Kris says:

      ‘What ifs’, predicting, mind-reading are all powerful traps associated with anxiety, especially when it’s to do with a fear someone has, and can be debilitating when triggered. It could be a fear based on something which might not have actually happened to that person or it could also be something they witnessed either first-hand or via the media, etc.

      Or maybe it was in another life or perhaps a parallel life? Just in case though… *knocks on wood for you too* 🙂

  2. sionedkla says:

    I won’t go into detail because well I can’t without reliving some of it. This is why I believe I can’t read a rape scene in a book or watch shows like SVU. It hits too close to home and I physically can not handle the out come. Now the older I have gotten (the more removed and the more tools I have acquired) the better I have become at dealing with this subject. Hell, my eye is twitching as I type this. *rolls shoulders* *takes a deep breath* I can handle some dub consent and some coercion tactics but out and out, violent rape leaves me physically ill. Case in point. I absolutely LOVE Aleksandr Voinov’s work but I can not read Special Forces. I have tried repeatedly but I can not get past the first parts.

    So yea, I get you luv.

    • Kris says:

      You are amazing for sharing that, Kassandra. Amazing and very, very brave. *big squishy hugs*

      I believe strongly that it is the traumatic events that are the most easily triggered. It was certainly something brought home even more to me while I was in hospital and through attending the group sessions. The mind and body remember whether we like it or not and that instinct to fight or to run away from those memories is absolutely natural – and is absolutely terrifying to re-experience.

      I think maybe that reading makes this situation even more intense because many of us tend to paint pictures to the words in a story. Unfortunately those of us who’ve had trauma similar to that which we’re reading can conjure up such imagery too easily.

      Thanks, Kassandra. I get you too. xxx

  3. Chris says:

    I can certainly see how writing could evoke memories like that. I can’t remember reading anything that had such a vivid sensory memory connection, though… but I might be cautious reading the anxiety attack bit in the Bloggess’ book.

    • Kris says:

      I’ve gone tense again at the idea of rereading it. No. Just can’t go there. Maybe I will be able to, but not now.

  4. Tish says:

    Books where parents can’t accept their kids. They make me angry, kids are so clean and pure and it’s up to us as parents to make sure they are unconditional loved. (no matter how old they are…) I also hate the excuse that being different is against God law. Hello, do you know God personally? Do you sit down and have a cuppa with him and ask his thoughts on different subjects? I want to tell them that if you believe God crated everything and everyone, then why can’t you accept that God created Gay people on purpose. That seems logical to me. If you can’t then why punish the children, why not their parents. Parents are the ones who created them so therefore they are the defective ones, not the kids. I like my logic, it makes me happy 🙂
    But apart from some really really stupid people, books that deal with drugging people and institutionalising them makes me stop reading.
    Damn! My repressed anger is showing, me thinks 😉 time for a nice cup of tea and then find my stiff upper lip.

    • Kris says:

      You’re part Aussie. Aussies don’t have stiff upper lips.

      And, yes, from what you’ve privileged me with sharing, I can only imagine what reading such stories would do. Deep breaths, luv. Deep breaths.

  5. Vivid rape scenes are a real trigger to me. I also can’t read any book that goes into great detail about child and animal abuse.

    • Kris says:

      Not the most pleasant of themes that’s for damned sure.

      Your comment did make me wonder, Steph, about what we don’t like reading because they trigger us or what we don’t like reading because they trigger past events. Also, the difference between sense memory and memory memory, or if they are the same thing. I might ask my psych about the latter one.

  6. orannia says:

    Yes, but I can’t put my name on the book(s) or scene(s). Or the why. I can never put my finger on the why 😦 Just that there are certain scenes that make me incredibly uncomfortable. Those scenes are very hard to get through and I usually figure it’s just me being me.

    *SIGH* Sometimes I wish my subconscious would draw me a detailed map to me!

  7. Pingback: Monday Mumbling – $20 per star « Tam Reads, Writes & Rambles

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