The traumas are hidden between layers and layers of repression, imposed by the same person who experienced them to ensure that these experiences do not hurt him or her. If he doesn’t remember them, he subconsciously thinks that he won’t hear them again.
The problem is, not being aware of a memory from the past doesn’t mean that it can’t continue to hurt us. It does, it prevents us from leading a normal life, and it can even cause us psychological and physical problems.
Obreation is the process by which a repressed memory is brought to the plane of consciousness, as if it were a question of fishing for memories.
This process can be very disturbing, in the sense that rediscovering the traumatic memory also helps to highlight the emotions associated with it, but it is also an opportunity to face this traumatic experience.
What’s the reaction?
From psychoanalysis it is called obreaction to the discharge of emotions and ailments associated with difficult memories, usually painful and traumatic childhood experiences.. In a therapeutic context, this phenomenon consists of reliving painful situations to the patient, by bringing the repressed memories to a conscious level. Through verbalization and other behavioral or gestural expressions, work will be done on traumatic memory and will release the emotional tension associated with it.
The term comes from the Austrian physician Sigmund Freud and also from the Austrian physician Joseph Breuer. It is the translation of the neologism “Abreagieren”, composed of the German words “reagieren”, to react; and the prefix “ab”, which in this case is the equivalent of the Spanish prefix “des”.
In the most original sense, the word “abreaction” would be understood as an emotional discharge by which an individual is released from emotions in response to a traumatic memory, preventing it from becoming or continuing to be pathogenic.
It is argued that obraction is not only a normal mechanism in the recovery process from psychological trauma, but also necessary. Through this, an ailment is released which from psychoanalysis is defined as “strangled”, which means that a repressed and complex emotional state is released which is brought to consciousness so that the patient can, precisely, consciously work with it. .
Freud and Breuer believed that recovery is more than expressing or reliving emotions. That is to say, bringing repressed memory to the conscious level is not enough to help the patient and provide him with more well-being and adaptation to his social life. Those who have been through trauma must not only know what it is, but also confront it, understand it and work through all the emotions it arouses, the same emotions that have eaten it up inside, even if it was not himself that he was conscious.
When a patient recalls a past trauma, that memory and the emotions it evokes must be carefully analyzed. The mental health professional should accompany the patient through the process, helping them to integrate experiences, ideas of reasoning, thoughts and emotions so as not to further intensify the pain.
The traumas are still there
In psychoanalysis we consider that a trauma always leaves clues. This traumatic memory is latent in the brain, altering the way the patient responds to stimuli, relates to others and sees himself. What is traumatic, although hidden deep in his mind, conditions him in everything and increases the risk of suffering from a health problem in adulthood.
It’s no secret that people who had traumatic experiences as children are more likely to have problems in adulthood ranging from chronic physical pain and mental disorders of all kinds to anxiety, depression or even schizophrenia.
Even if a disorder does not manifest itself, there is no doubt that having lived through extremely stressful and threatening situations in childhood will have negative consequences on mental health, although they are not consciously remembered. And on top of that, the brain has the ability to tie any stimulus present to the threat that was once experienced as truly terrifying.
These stimuli may be completely harmless, but they remind you of really stressful times. A smell, a sound or an image can transport the patient in his past, by bringing to light a repressed memory, that is to say an embrace. It is at this moment when emotions arise, tears appear, tremors appear, a feeling of insecurity … You may be blocked.
However, when the reaction appears during therapy, in a controlled space, this phenomenon is a real opportunity to combat the trauma as a whole. In therapy, the patient can be helped to remember more facts and to verbalize all the traumatic memory. With the guidance of the psychologist, an extremely disturbing and problematic memory can be transformed into a healthier and better controlled state.
Obreation: from an obstacle to a therapeutic tool
There are two types of action: planned and spontaneous. The spontaneous operation is one that accidentally occurs as a result of stimuli related to the trauma, while the planned operation is one that is induced in an organized manner, usually facilitated by the psychologist in full therapy. It is this second who acquires therapeutic power, not in himself but with the help of the psychologist who serves as a guide during the process and can help the patient to cope with the painful memory.
One of the most suitable techniques for producing obractions is EMDR (desensitization and retreatment by eye movements). The goal of this therapeutic approach is to transform information stored in a dysfunctional manner into a memory that is more integrative, less pathological and more emotionally manageable. The role of the psychologist will be to provide the patient with constant support and security so that, at a professional but compassionate distance, the beneficiary of the therapy can acquire a certain degree of control over their memories, reformulate their ideas, beliefs and emotions. .
Two things can happen during the production process. The first is that the patient performs a dissociation, activating the psychological mechanism that causes you to disconnect your mind from reality because the emotional pain is so great that you cannot handle it and use this resource. The second is to perform a whole catharsis exercise, and to release all that has been repressed, gain well-being and acquire a powerful tool to face the painful emotions that he has experienced in the silence of his subconscious.
In reality, Freud uses the term “abreaction” to replace catharsis, a word of Greek origin which means both “purge” and “purification”, referring in this case to the fact that the patient, if he succeeds, is freed from all emotional tension, is “cleansed” of his bad emotions . As long as the memory lasts, the painful emotions that provoked it will no longer manifest and will no longer hurt it. The problem is externalized, represented on the outside, so the person who had it inside relieves it.
Thus, from psychoanalysis, it emerges that obraction can be a really useful tool in therapy, provided that it is controlled at the time of onset. Patient trauma can only be worked on when they are aware of it, identify what exactly happened, what emotions it produces in them, and work on the beliefs around them. Bringing the repressed to the level of consciousness is a fundamental task in any therapeutic process, for it is only by bringing the patient to control and understand the trauma that he will be able to acquire more mental health and emotional well-being. .