psychogenic amnesia

In the Hidden Sanctuary series, the protagonist Jacob is suffering from the effects of a childhood trauma. In book one, Hidden, he has no recollection of what this trauma actually is but his recurring and vividly gruesome nightmares are a red flag to a past he doesn’t think he’ll want to remember.

The increased nightmares have been triggered by his encounter with Sada, but Jacob resists exploring what they might mean. He’s long had a sense there is something his mind is protecting him from and he fears learning the whole truth.

It’s difficult to imagine how a person’s mind can be so clever as to literally block memories of a traumatic event. But the body and mind have evolved to protect and survive to extraordinary lengths.

What Jacob is suffering from (if suffering is the right word) is psychogenic amnesia, also known as functional amnesia or dissociative amnesia. The life event that triggered it happened when he was fifteen years old, a period when the developing mind is particularly sensitive to traumatic experiences. Unable to process this ‘intolerable life situation’, Jacob’s mind blocked the details out instead.

In the difficult years that followed for Jacob, these memories sank deeper and deeper until triggered by associated ‘identifiers’, in his case the sight of blood on white cotton, and his brother’s name.