As it turns out, the idea that “time heal all wounds” is a myth. Although time can certainly make some memories fade, the passage of time can be thought as a measurement of how effective an individual is at processing, internalizing or coping with distressing experiences. Even after long passages of time, memories of negative events can set off a cascade of distress, physiological symptoms, and even put someone into a fight/flight/ or freeze (F3) state. As a Neuropsychologist I have personally seen patients over 90 years of age becoming emotional when thinking about negative childhood experiences.
Why does this happen?
Our brains are wired to actually continue to create the same response when something similar to a prior stressor occurs. This trigger can be a traumatic memory, an external threat, or even a familiar smell. The stress response can also be triggered even if we are not aware of conscious thoughts that pertain to anything, and this is seen in individuals who suffer with panic, with no precipitating negative thoughts to identify why the physical panic occurred. Your F3 response is designed to go off anytime something that previously set it off occurs again. Want to have fewer things set off your F3 response? Get adequate sleep, exercise, and take care of yourself so your brain’s resting state is in a good state. This makes it less likely that you’ll experience anxiety or panic. If you want a passive, non-invasive tech solution, try Buzzies to stay in a calm zone or recover more quickly if you do go into the F3 response.