“I remember but I don’t feel upset”: How energy psychology facilitates memory reconsolidation

One of the best things about being an energy psychology practitioner is seeing that look of wonder in our clients’ eyes when their traumatic memories are no longer traumatic. Tapping lets us change how memories feel.
“I remember it, but I don’t feel upset about it,” they say.
It’s the kind of experience that makes this profession so rewarding.
I remember one instance in particular. A client was working on a childhood trauma. He was in tears ― lots of them ― before we even started working. When I asked him to rate his distress on a scale of 0-10, he said it was 100. He looked as if he were telling the truth.
We began working. If you practice energy psychology, you know the drill: We tapped, and down the rating went: 10 to 6, 6 to 3, 3 to 0 or 1. At the end of the hour, and the end of the story, we arrived at a wide-eyed, “How-did-this-happen, I-remember-but-I-don’t-feel-upset, it’s-a-ZERO!!”
Months later, I asked my client how he felt about the issue. He looked at me with surprise. “You know, I don’t think about it. I remember it happened but it doesn’t bother me.”

Memory reconsolidation

How did this happen? Why didn’t the trauma response come back? A part of the answer, at least, has to do with memory reconsolidation.
Neuroscientists used to think that once something was encoded into long –term memory, it was there for good. The emotions associated with a memory were permanent. Or so it seemed.
In the late 1990’s, researchers began studying memory reconsolidation. It turns out, thank goodness, that memories are changeable. When memories are activated ―when we remember― the memory becomes labile. In that state, it can be changed, or reconsolidated. When a memory is reconsolidated, the uncomfortable emotions associated with it can be erased.
Researchers and theoreticians disagree about the exact requirements for memory reconsolidation to occur. However, they have identified three key ingredients:
1. Vividly remember
2. Change the internal physiology or juxtapose a contradictory experience
3. Repeat

Extinction vs. Reconsolidation

Most anxiety therapies offer, at best, “extinction.” Yet extinction is really a misnomer. Like the salivation response of Pavlov’s dogs after “extinction”, so too with extinction-oriented therapy: anxiety-provoking memories, and their flood of feelings, can come back unbidden at any time.
Memory reconsolidation is something different: an elimination of the anxiety associated with a previously disturbing memory. As my client’s experience illustrates, a traumatic memory can be reconsolidated so that it no longer triggers a trauma response.

Memory reconsolidation and energy psychology

In his 2015 article, David Feinstein explained energy psychology tapping in terms of memory reconsolidation. His article is worth a read; the link is here.
Meridian tapping changes our internal physiology. Studies show that tapping on meridian points changes body chemistry and brain activity:
• A recent study using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) showed deactivation in limbic regions following tapping.
• A 2009 study, using electroencephalogram (EEG), demonstrated healthy changes in brainwave patterns after trauma treatment with energy psychology.
• A 2012 study showed energy psychology reduces levels of salivary cortisol.

When we do energy psychology tapping, we ask our clients to activate the memory. While they do that, they are tapping on meridian points. Our clients are simultaneously activating a troubling memory and calming their internal physiology.
Energy psychology is a good way to facilitate memory reconsolidation; memory reconsolidation is a good model to explain how energy psychology works. No matter how you look at it, energy psychology helps our clients heal old wounds and feel better about themselves.