Integrative Psychiatry

Trauma and Memory Systems By Peter Levine, PhD

By August 31, 2020 No Comments

What do we mean by memory?

Memory is identified into two types which is the explicit (most conscious) and implicit (least conscious).

Episodic memory is a sub-category said to be conscious but in a very different way which can have certain qualities that is very important in the carrying forth of our lives.

Conscious memory is only a small part of the memory bank that drives us. These are classified as implicit memory. Implicit memories when goes unresolved can sink us into despair, depression, and helplessness much like how an iceberg sank The Titanic.

Episodic memory however interfaces with both explicit (rational) and implicit (irrational) realms of our mind. Which is like the great communicator which allows us to build coherent narratives.


When people talk about traumatic memory, we have to really understand what we’re talking about and what do we mean by memory.

There are two basic types of memory, the first is explicit which is the most conscious and then you have the implicit memories which are the least conscious which is all about cold facts. There’s very little to no emotionality associated with declarative memory, Episodic memory however is an interesting subcategory. And it’s said to be conscious, but it is conscious in a very different way. It’s less conscious than declarative memory and it can have certain qualities which are very important in the carrying forth of our lives.

Conscious memory is only a very small part of the memory banks that drive us and these are so called implicit memories. Also, when we’re talking about trauma, the upper part of the iceberg is PTSD, and that the lower part are all of these symptoms that occur that are not classic PTSD symptoms. Classic PTSD symptoms are things like hyper arousal, hyper vigilance, nightmares, flashbacks, then we have explicit memory which is a very little part of our memory systems and of how our memory systems drive our emotions, our behaviors, and our movement in life. And just like the surface below the iceberg, that sunk The Titanic, those implicit memories when they are unresolved can sink us into despair, depression, and helplessness.

Episodic memory really provides the interface between rational explicit and irrational implicit realms. So, it’s really kind of the great communicator between the deeply unconscious processes and the explicit processes and the episodic memory allows us to build a coherent narrative.