Repressed Memory: Is it Even There or Not?

Last Update on May 19, 2022 : Published on June 2, 2020
Signs of repressed memory

Life is all about memories! Pleasant or unpleasant, vague, or intact we all are creating memories.

Our brain has a whole storehouse of memory with each memory categorized! Don’t believe me? Try this activity.

Close your eyes and try to trace down the following memories…

  • What dress did you wear on your 18th birthday?
  • Which restaurant did you take your first date to?
  • What was your 1st Math teacher’s name?
  • How was your first baking experience?
  • The first time your parents scolded you or you got punished at school?

Also Read: Stress & Memory | How Stress Affects Our Memory

Interesting right? How can our brain easily pick a folder and trace down a memory? Well, our brain is a tricky tool.

You might notice here that while some memories stay with us forever, the others are soon forgotten! Or even repressed!

Yes, we do repress our memories because they are neither vague enough to be forgotten nor are they pleasant enough to be remembered. On the contrary, certain memories are traumatic in nature, which you don’t want to put in your recallable memory folder, but the emotions attached to it are strong enough to stay.

So, our brain put them in the repressed memory folder. Today we will be exploring Repressed Memory because although it is not recalled directly, it does have an impact on our mental wellness and life in general.


The concept of repressed memory dates back to the 1800s. Since then there have been various views on repressed memory. One view that has remained constant is repressed memory being linked to childhood traumatic experiences. These memories are blocked unconsciously because if they are brought to consciousness they are likely to bring distress in life. Therefore, it becomes important to learn about them and check with oneself whether there is something holding you back in your life or not.

Why do we Repress Memories?

Repressed Memory

Repressed memories are related to traumatic life experiences but apart from this reason there are two other explanations as to why we repress memories viz.

  • Repressed memory protects us from extreme emotions linked with a memory like- anger, resentment, fear, and negative beliefs
  • Repressed memory is a way of our brain to tell our bodies that we might not be able to deal with the reality of trauma

Common Origins of Repressed Memory

The common origin point of repressed memory is a traumatic childhood experience but there can be other causes as well.

Stress: Ongoing stressful situations or highly stressful life events may lead to emotional as well as a nervous breakdown. Thus, in order to cope with it, the individual subconsciously represses the memories associated with it.

Grief: Grief may result from the loss of a friend, a pet, or a loved one, leading to a decision of repressing the memory. While many people with time heal and eventually move forward in their lives some people can’t heal the emotional scars. It becomes too much to handle and slowly certain memories are placed under the carpet of repression.

Also Read: Be Your Own Healer: Understanding the Stages of Grief

Abuse: Individuals tend to repress unpleasant recollections that result from abuse be it physical, sexual, or mental. Individuals who have undergone any form of abuse choose to repress it and never recall it.

Signs of Having a Repressed Memory:

Few signs are tied with repressed memories. It is important to note here that as these memories are repressed and an individual is not aware of having one, these signs can also represent other mental health conditions.

Signs of repressed memories are:

1. Having strong reactions to certain people/situation/place

Certain places, people, or situations freak you out, putting you in a fight or flight mode without knowing the underlying why? Johnson says, “When someone experiences a negative automatic event in childhood, their brain records the specific sensations (side, sounds, smells, etc.) and brings that negative experience to memory when similar stimuli are encountered in the future”. An individual feels anxious while meeting a particular person or be in a particular situation then the possible explanation is past trauma.

Also Read: To React or To Respond? That Is The Question

2. Facing difficulty in regulating Emotions

It is found that people who have unaddressed traumatic or negative childhood events struggle with mood regulation. Due to difficulty in managing emotions, a person is likely to feel super anxious or go super mad over trivial things.

3. Being consistent at a job seems difficult

It becomes difficult to maintain healthy relationships as you grow up because of particular childhood trauma. It definitely impacts one’s relationship with family and self. But that’s not it; the impact of the same can be seen in an individual’s professional life. Thus, making it difficult for them to be consistent at their job.

4. Struggling with thoughts and fears of abandonment

Ideally stemming out from childhood development disruptions fear of abandonment might develop in an individual. Due to this the chances of a person to give a strong emotional reaction whenever someone leaves them increase manifold.

Signs of Having a Repressed Memory

5. Showing impulsive behavior on more than one occasion

Impulsive behavior can be seen as a way to suppress the negative feelings that are associated with traumatic past life experiences or childhood memories. In order to forget about these difficult feelings, an individual tries to find an easy way out to forget them and feel differently. The easiest way out happens to be turning it into impulsive behavior.

6. Feeling emotionally exhausted

While all the mental energy of an individual is consumed in suppressing the past traumatic life experiences the chances of feeling emotionally exhausted increase. This also leads an individual with little or no energy to invest in relationships.

Also Read: How To Emotionally Detach Yourself From Someone & A Skill One Should Master

7. Having an issue with Anger Management

We all feel angry at one point or the other. But even if the littlest of things makes an individual feel angry to an extent where he ends up acting out in rage then it should be looked upon. This rage is so furious that people are scared of the person and relationships are harmed.

Also Read: Best Online Anger Management Classes Of 2021

8. Being called out as ‘acting like a child’ by friends and family

We all have a child within us but if the childlike behavior continues to display across various situations and locations irrespective of the context then and it can be a red flag to look for. These child-like responses are very much different from the emotional responses expected out of an adult in a given situation, ranging from whining to throwing oneself on the ground.

9. Having a tendency to self-sabotage

Doing great at work and in life? But being continuously involved in different ways to undermine it which further leads to confusion and feelings of regret? Then chances of self-supporting one are there.

Well, the good news is that if your repressed memories start interfering with your daily life functioning then they can be worked upon with the help of talk therapies. So, feel free to reach an offline or online therapy platform and get much-needed relief in your life.

Stay Strong (You are a True Warrior)

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About The Author

Anjali Singh
Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh is a content curator in the field of Mental Health. She is currently done Ph.D. in Psychology. Her aim is to light up the world with positive vibes through her words, her idea of life is ‘Grow through what you go through’. Apart from this, she is a big-time pet lover.


  1. Ngan

    Pretty nice post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wished to mention that I have truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I'll be subscribing to your feed and I'm hoping you write again very soon!

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