Monday, June 13, 2011

Memory Training - The Three Ways We Deal with the Past

A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen~Edward de Bono

Memories - the gift our creator gave to humanity - have allowed us to thrive as the dominant species on the planet.  Thanks to our memories we have communication, cities, infrastructure, faith, medicine, science, entertainment, joy and sorrow.  Our memories are what set us apart from the rest of the animals, and yet it is our memories which have also plagued us with doubt, guilt, remorse, regret, fear, trepidation, and more.

Our memories are what give us the filter through which we process life as it comes, and often that filter can work against us.   The filter works to serve the idea we have created about life and our place in it, so that when any contradictory information appears - good or bad - we process it through our filter and reach the same conclusion we held previously.

The Guard at the Wall
A client once told me he felt as if he lived behind a high wall which extended into infinity to the right and left.  On the other side of the wall stood his father as a kind of sentry, guarding the wall so that no information could get to my client without passing through the father first.  When someone would approach the wall, they would often compliment my client: "You're terrific"; "You're funny"; "You are so sweet" and so on.  After the person left, my client would shout over the wall to his sentry father figure and ask "What did they say?" to which his father shouted back "You're still a loser!"

Experiences in life do not have to define us.  YOU ARE NOT YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES.  What happened in the past didn't happen TO YOU, it just happened, and you made it mean something based on your emotional filter.

The Three Ways We Deal with the Past
For most of us, we deal with painful memories (or experiences which become memories) in one of three ways:

Feel it
Force it Down
Face it

For those of us who FEEL the experience, we can carry the pain of a perceived memory for years, allowing it to fuel our reasons for playing small in our lives, and not taking on the risks, challenges, or possibilities which could define us as being more than our pain.

Some of us FORCE DOWN our experiences. Resisting emotions that surround painful memories is like what the Ghostbusters did with the ghosts once they caught them - they locked them away in a specialized containment facility in their basement.  Although the door may have always been closed and they didn't see the goblins, they knew they were there... and the energy required to keep that door closed and locked was alarming, causing the city to intervene (much like a coach would with a client who was stuffing down too many bad memories and emotions).  They shut down the containment field and once the ghosts were freed, they could be dealt with .

And then there are those of us who FACE our demons head on.  There is a great saying: "What you resist persists, but what you look at disappears."  Stuffed down or not, once you face the feelings and acknowledge they are there, work through them and let them go, they go away and a feeling of freedom is left in its place.  That freedom is possibility - the possibility to take on something new - something that serves the person you choose to be now.

There are a billion moments in life, each one holds the possibility to create within us joy or sorrow.  If the sorrowful memories are only serving to continue the sorrow, then you are hanging on to them for the wrong reason and you have to release them.  If you want a painful memory to 'unhappen' then you have to face it and let it go.  Otherwise you will be like that man behind the wall, always waiting for word from the outside that life is going to get better - and yet that message never comes because you left the wrong person at the gate in charge of your happiness.

Know yourself, Don't NO Yourself

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