But at one point, after mentioning this ‘fact’, this client immediately asked, “how do you know?” She meant, ‘how do we know that the human brain remembers absolutely everything.’ I must admit I had a micro-second’s conniption at that point. What went through my mind was “how do I answer this without launching into a two-hour lecture about synaptic transference and electro-chemical encoding, and the rest of the detailed explanation as to how the brain ‘locks in’ memory anyway?"
In a flash, I decided that I would offer an explanation relating ONLY to the way in which the brain encodes (remembers) affect responses and develops an emotional memory of ‘how to react to discomfort.’ After all, in affectology and Af-x Therapy, we are specifically concerned with the fact that the unconscious processes of the human brain go on to develop from initiating discomforting experiences into repeating (perseverating) patterns of behavioral, mental and emotional response. So, this explanation about EMOTIONAL memory being saved at unconscious memory turned out to be largely, but not completely relevant to the question posed by the client.
In truth, it didn’t answer her question, since she was curious as to how we know that EVERYTHING is remembered at unconscious level. But to answer that question would have required much more than was appropriate to give. So, my little skip sideways into an explanation of AFFECT-only memory was appropriate, and, more usefully, specific to our work as affectologists. While it might be of great interest to some as to how the unconscious remembers an event like - for instance - our father driving a red car down the driveway when we were three years old may be interesting, it has little relevance to affect-centered work (unless of course, the red car had a significant emotionally-concomitant implication).
In twenty years of therapeutic work in the realm of affectology and emotionally-specific reframing, I had never been asked that question; a fact that probably drove me to be blasé about ‘everybody knowing that the unconscious remembers everything.’ So, that little experience driven by a client’s curiosity firmed up the concept in my mind that in clinical affectology and most specifically Af-x therapy, we must hold very securely to the fact that our work is specific to affect, and not the vast landscape of ordinary life. In Af-x course work, we are very attentive to the study of how affect (emotion) memory is encoded in the amygdala and associated centers of the limbic brain. We study the way in which the limbic system reacts to experiences subsequent to initiating emotional memory and builds on those reactions in a way that becomes automatically perseverated (building emotional habits that later become difficult to break.)
So, that experience with my client is a reminder that affectology, clinical affectology and Af-x Therapy are approaches that lie within the territories of (1) the unconscious aspects of the human mind and its processes, and (2) must be kept within the confines of how that unconscious relegates experience specifically to affect and emotional characteristics of life.
For those of us who are affectologists and those who are simply interested in (a) the remembering of emotional memory, (b) the marked differences between implicit (emotional) memory and (explicit) conscious memory, and how they are formed and perseverated, it can be useful to visit this website of Joseph LeDoux, neuroscientist.