Addressing the long term affects of trauma has staggering implications. An emerging body of approaches showing success for working with the long term psychological and physical effects of adverse events continue to offer hope. One of those therapeutic interventions that is showing great promise and has been growing in use for the past decade is something called Matrix Reimprinting (MR). Students and of this work, including MR practitioners, therapists, social workers and psychologists are profoundly impacted by the technique’s powerful ability to gently work with trauma to create transformative change.
As international trainers for this intervention aside from the surprise we hear regarding its effectiveness is a concern that is expressed from those less knowledgeable about the technique and it sounds something like: …”I don’t believe we should be in the business of changing memories.” It is time to address this concern and fallacy that Matrix Reimprinting or EFT for that matter “changes memories”.
First, let us openly state that like nearly every other therapeutic technique, MR has changed over time. This approach has now been around for ten years since its inception by Karl Dawson in 2007. Through the test of time with the clinical experience of thousands of practitioners around the world, it too has evolved and been fine-tuned. So what may have been witnessed in a session years ago may well be slightly different today.
For those new to this Energy Psychology technique, the creation story of MR begins with a simple experience that Karl Dawson, the technique developer had when working with a woman in an EFT session, as he was one of the original EFT Master Practitioners. The session was not progressing well, so Karl asked her to close her eyes and see her younger self in that event they were working on. The client then said, “I can see her so clearly that I can tap on her.” So Karl said, “Then go ahead and tap on her.” This simple beginning birthed a process that now is substantiated by and elegantly integrates a host of neuroscientific processes, including concepts put forward by Bruce Ecker, author of Unlocking the Emotional Brain, the research performed at the Heartmath Institute and more.
When we say that with Matrix Reimprinting you can literally change or rewrite your memory and imprint the new, more favorable memory, we are referring to “the perception” of the memory. The perception, in essence includes your “felt sense” of the event upon reflection and remembering it. This refers to how you feel about the memory, the emotions that arise when thinking about it and how your body responds upon recalling it. It also affects, when performed successfully, an alteration of emotional learnings or original decisions about oneself and the establishment of negative and limiting beliefs that may have been made at the time. The original memory remains the same but when you organically go through the MR process and release the effects of the trauma held within the implicit memory, wisdom and knowledge are gained. The event becomes a part of your history that has made you infinitely more resilient. As part of the process, your younger self may also elect to use other resources in order to deal with the problem better, to say things that did not get to be spoken at the time, for example. They get to re-interpret the story for a new felt sense to emerge. Again, this rewrite does not change your conscious memory, but it does reformulate the perception of it in the subconscious memory. Since it is the subconscious memory that runs up to 90% of our daily programs and can undermine everything from ones health as well as ability to be resilient and experience success in life, working with these subconscious decisions can be truly life transforming. Limiting or negative beliefs run like programs behind the scenes and undermine your will to change, transform and prosper.
It is interesting to observe the resistance and concerns we hear about changing memories. Current memory research indicates that memories are continually being altered every time we consciously recall a long term consolidated memory. When we remember an event from our past, we view it through our current lens of life experience and our current attitudes, beliefs and perspectives alter, ever so slightly, our recollection of the original event. So as human beings we are forever “changing” our memories.
The fascinating work of Dr. Daniela Schiller and her colleagues at NYU can shed light on memories for us. Dr. Schiller’s work shows us that all our memories constantly changing and less solid than a play by play movie in our heads. “Memories are malleable constructs that are reconstructed with each recall”, says Schiller. We may have recognized that our memories are like Swiss cheese but Schiller’s work suggests memories are more like processed cheese! Every time we recall an event we edit it and each time we edit it we add emotional details
The Matrix Reimprinting process allows us to work with past traumatic memories in a therapeutic way that allows healing of these adverse events through the use of creating safety and offering resources (including tapping) to our client. Better that then our ongoing use of unintentional habitual recall of the past with no conscious intent.
The science that supports this work can be found in the ongoing and elegant research of memory reconsolidation. Especially helpful for understanding this concept is the work being done by Bruce Ecker, developer of Coherence Therapy. He draws from a strong foundation of research by the most prestigious neuroscientists and memory researchers in the world including (Nader, Schafe, & LeDoux, 2000; Przybyslawski, Roullet, & Sara, 1999; Przybyslawski & Sara, 1997; Roullet & Sara, 1998; Sara, 2000; Sekiguchi, Yamada, & Suzuki, 1997). These researchers found that when they reactivated a “target emotional learning” (think a traumatic event combined with an associated schema of feelings and beliefs/decisions that were then created and wired in, they were able to successfully take this memory with its associated emotional learning and shift it back from “a locked consolidated state to an unlocked, de-consolidated, labile, destabilized or plastic state, which allowed the learning to be completely nullified, along with behavioral responses it had been driving. The labile circuit soon consolidates once again, returning it to a locked condition, which is why researchers named this newly discovered type of neuroplasticity memory reconsolidation.” This is exactly what is being done with Matrix Reimprinting.
Ecker continues in a beautifully succinct way to state that “Neuroscientists have also shown that after a learned emotional response has been eliminated through the reconsolidation process, the individual still remembers the experiences in which the response was acquired—as well as the fact of having had the response—but the emotional response itself is no longer re-evoked by remembering those experiences. This finding that autobiographical memory is not impaired by erasure of a piece of emotional memory reflects the well-established anatomical separateness of different types of memory, which allows erasure of a specific emotional learning stored in an emotional implicit memory network without affecting the contents of autobiographical, narrative memory stored in a neocortical, explicit memory network.”
Recalling and exploring a memory and imagining what could have happened differently is very different from denying that it took place. Have you ever rehearsed over and over again in your mind something that you wished you had said or done in a different way? The Matrix Reimprinting process provides the opportunity to go back to that point in time and do that. This has a tremendous healing effect for numerous reasons. The thoughts one has when recalling an adverse or traumatic memory can have anxiety producing effects with alteration of physiology, be it hyper or hypo arousal. The long term physical health effects of childhood trauma, aka Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs) such as heart and liver disease, increased susceptibility to depressions and addictions are well documented in the literature. In fact, according to Robert Block, the former president of the American Pediatric Association, “Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are the greatest unaddressed health issue facing our nation today."
Given the ubiquitous nature of emotional trauma, becoming more trauma informed and developing a greater number of tools is absolutely necessary to reduce a wide array of mental and physical concerns that result from them. Matrix Reimprinting is one of those effective tools within the therapeutic trauma field. As to the fear or concern of whether it “changes memories” I believe that concern can be laid to rest now.
Craig Weiner, DC
Boath, E., Stewart, A. & Rolling, C. (2014). The impact of EFT and Matrix Reimprinting on the civilian survivors of war in Bosnia: A pilot study. Curr. Res. Psychol., 5: 65-73. Click here to view Abstract http://goo.gl/Y8CqZY and read Full Paper http://goo.gl/XfyP1t
Ecker, B., Ticic, R., Routledge, L. Adapted for The Neuropsychotherapist from Unlocking the Emotional Brain: Eliminating Symptoms at Their Roots Using Memory Reconsolidation, 2012
Feinstein, D. How energy psychology changes deep emotional learnings, The Neuropsychotherapist, Jan. 2015, Issue 10, p. 39-49.
Stewart A, Boath E, Carryer A, Walton I, Hill L, Phillips D, Dawson K. Can Matrix Reimprinting be effective in the treatment of emotional conditions in a public health setting? Results of a U.K. pilot study. Energy Psychology 2013. DOI: 10.9769.EPJ.2013.5.1.AS.EB.AC.IW.LH.DP.KD