Conflict Thesaurus Entry: A Repressed Memory Resurfacing

Conflict is very often the magic sauce for generating tension and turning a ho-hum story into one that rivets readers. As such, every scene should contain a struggle of some kind. Maybe it’s an internal tug-of-war having to do with difficult decisions, morals, or temptations. Or it possibly could come from an external source—other characters, unfortunate circumstances, or the force of nature itself.

It’s our hope that this thesaurus will help you come up with meaningful and fitting conflict options for your stories. Think about what your character wants and how best to block them, then choose a source of conflict that will ramp up the tension in each scene.

Conflict: A Repressed Memory Resurfacing

Category: Power Struggles, Increased Pressure and Ticking Clocks, Failures and Mistakes, Relationship Friction, Losing an Advantage, Loss of Control

Being triggered by something in their environment
Overhearing a discussion that leads to forgotten memories
Uncovering something unexpected during hypnotherapy
Experiencing a traumatic situation that awakens memories of past trauma
Finding mementos from the past that trigger a flood of unwanted memories

Minor Complications:
Becoming highly emotional and anxious
Experiencing fight or flight and causing a scene
Shutting down (disengaging from work, forgetting to pick kids up from school, becoming unresponsive, etc.)
Revealing secrets that will impact others
Feeling unsafe and insecure and not knowing how to cope
Underlying behaviors becoming worse (fear reactions) because the character now fully understands the reason for them

Potentially Disastrous Results:
Post traumatic stress disorder derailing one’s life
Depression and suicidal thoughts (or attempts)
Self-isolation and paranoia caused by trust issues or disillusionment
Feeling betrayed if they are not believed
A family fracturing when a member’s involvement in a past event is revealed
A family member being incarcerated for their past actions
The character acting on their anger and seeking revenge, breaking the law which leads to incarceration

Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Doubting their own memories and what is real or not
Self-loathing and self-blame (often undeserved)
Feeling unsafe and not knowing how to fix it
Feeling like their life has derailed and it no longer fits who they are
Wanting to move past what happened and being unable to
Struggling to decide what to tell others
Frustration over holes in one’s memories and wanting to remember
Anger and resentment toward others involved who should have done more to offer protection or made different choices
Religious disillusionment

People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: People they accuse of wrongdoing (and by association, their family), family or friends who engaged in a cover up and their actions are coming to light, people in power who dropped the ball or looked the other way and now that’s being revealed, people the character is responsible to while they time to work through these memories and any resulting fallout)

Resulting Emotions: anger, anguish, anxiety, betrayed, bitterness, confusion, depressed, disgust, disillusionment, fear, grief, guilt, hatred, humiliation, insecurity, neglected, overwhelmed, panic, paranoia, self-loathing, shame, terror, tormented, vulnerability, worthlessness

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: addictive, impulsive, insecure, irrational, needy, nervous, paranoid, reckless, uncommunicative, vindictive, violent, volatile

Positive Outcomes: 
Knowing their past trauma allows them to seek help and start working through it
Having an explanation for why they feel a certain way (when in a specific place, with a person, or doing an activity)
Having answers about a past event or situation which brings relief
Knowing they may finally get closure when there was no chance of it before

If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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Traci Kenworth
1 year ago

A great tool to use for a traumatic event that explodes unexpectedly for a character!

Kassandra Lamb
Kassandra Lamb
1 year ago

You nailed it, Angela!
Kassandra Lamb, retired psychotherapist/trauma recovery specialist