Memory Reconsolidation – The E.R.A.S.E.D. Process

Bringing ability into accord with objectives is to bring ones ability into accord with one’s intentions, purpose, goal or aim and refers to what one wants or is motivated to do or achieve, signifying a course of action one proposes to follow (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 2016).

In an extraordinary feat of competition and cooperation in humans, the conscious, aware mind and the faculty of attention, as dynamics of an innate neuroplastic system that changes orientation, can combine to erase obsolete and defeating learnings and replace them with new knowledge.

This is achieved by means of a process developed by Leslie Zimmermann designated as “The E.R.A.S.E.D Process” a name that encapsulates both the protocol and its desired outcome.

When an embedded negative learning is triggered – along with all its attendant disruptive emotions and a concomitant deep, unfulfilled yearning to be liberated from its debilitating effects – it will typically generate the same old responses and a resultant acting out of a repetitive and unchanging tale over a lifetime. It is clear that much is at stake and much is to be gained if this type of learning is finally to be overcome by a new reality, by the creation of a new, more constructive script.

This process acts efficiently, quickly and in the moment, in order to modify and supplant old learnings with new and beneficial knowledge.

This process concerns memory reconsolidation, a function that has been adapted from laboratory research for psychotherapeutic use. It has engendered considerable excitement in the therapeutic world because of its efficacy with patients. This has in turn motivated the development of numerous varieties of reconsolidation processes.

The capacity of neuroplastic adaptation of the brain in order to reconsolidate old learnings and update them with new knowledge has existed for millennia. It functions successfully for both animals and humans. Although its governing principles were only finally understood in 2004, organisms needed to experience reconsolidation frequently enough during the long period of this facility’s development and its maintenance, for it to be selected. But understanding the governing principles means that it can now be purposefully applied.

Organisms with minds possess the advantage of being able to deliberately create ways and means to regulate their lives, maintain homeostasis and thus further their survival. In addition, humans have not only creatively evolved many cultural instruments that help to establish and support such a state but are also able to take survival to another level by developing ways of thriving and creating and living a good life. The capacity that enables this in individuals is a conscious, aware mind that can represent mental feelings of what the organism is experiencing. These feelings are subjectively felt and matter to the individual, and thus guide and enable deliberate behaviour. 

The principle driver behind the E.R.A.S.E.D. Process is the capacity to change orientation by means of a sequence of specific steps powered by the mind and valence, and the operation of attention, which harnesses the force of erasing old learnings and replacing them with new knowledge.

The problems that hinder the reconsolidation system, and which need to be overcome, are:

  1. That which an individual learns from the time of birth needs to function for life. This means these learnings are stored in long-term memory and then act automatically.
  • These past learnings are not isolated memories but, as a result of real past experiences, are structured as complete models. These categories function as living schemas, i.e. patterns with inherent processes that include autobiographical memories, emotional memories, memories of what the world or self is, and memories of learned ways of responding whenever the specific, related schema is triggered.

  • Nothing escapes the conscious, aware mind, whether it is the state of the body, positive or negative emotions and their actions, the translation of emotions into a label, the continuum of gripping, pleasant to unpleasant valence, the concordant thoughts arising from the emotion, and the thoughts of automatic, learned responses, all of these represented in the mind. In mythical terms, the mind is Apollo, the sun god who always gets his way. The mind thus powers the awareness that informs individuals of the status quo in the organism, which as part of being a minded organism, can enable the creative functions of reasoning and decision-making that can effect changes. But at the same time the mind also faithfully reports the old learnings – the latter acting as a force to maintain functions that were meant to endure, not change.

  • The mind is thus the power that either enables or prevents change in orientation. That is, it facilitates or prevents change. But importantly, the part of the mind that is able to find creative solutions, while being the power that can enable such change, is not the force that actuates change – it is not the “technician.” It will represent the status quo, report on the progress – positive or negative – of actions effecting change, if and when they take place. Further, it is able to creatively find solutions and engage in decisions and planning, which are in turn influenced by the state of the organism – aversive or in a state of well-being.

The E.R.A.S.E.D. Process consciously and effectively enables individuals to not only attend to aversive emotions and thoughts, to not only erase old learnings and replace them with new knowledge, to not only survive, but also to actively thrive.

This is the aim of memory reconsolidation. This is the goal that evolution painstakingly developed and selected for over all the past millennia. This has now, in contemporary times, become available as a conscious, deliberate function.

About Leslie

Leslie Zimmermann is an accredited  Jungian Analyst trained in the philosophy and psychology of C.G. Jung in Zürich and is based in Johannesburg. She offers a range of services, which she integrates, to meet the needs and aspirations of people. In a word, her work is in the service of wholeness. Wholeness includes both our vulnerabilities and our strengths, becoming conscious of our own unique mix of these, honoring our own unique way of functioning and with this knowledge and confidence, contributing as only we each can in our own way, to this evolving world we find ourselves to be a part of.

Besides having a Diplomate qualification in Analytical psychology, which qualifies me to write about the theory and practice of dream interpretation, I also have an Honours degree in Applied Psychology and a Masters degree in Research psychology, which qualify me to write about theories of human development, personality, abnormal psychology, social psychology, neuropsychology, sociology and ethics. Also, theories and knowledge pertaining to sleep and dreams from a symbolic perspective including neuropsychological and biological systems.

MA in Research Psychology, Cum Laude (Witwatersrand University, South Africa)
Post-graduate Diplomate, Accredited Analytical Psychologist (Switzerland)
Member: SAPC (South African Psychoanalytic Confederation)
Member: IAAP (International Association for Analytical Psychology
Member: SAAJA South Africa

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