I just saw the movie “Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind” – a story about erasing people from your memory and mind.
I’ve been asked to do that same job by clients once in a while – “I don’t want to remember this person, this event, this time in my life… because it was painful, embarrassing, uncomfortable…” Unlike the movie, though, I can’t set up a contraption and bleep the past away, nor would I want to.
While I’ve often thought about the past, “if I knew then what I know now, things would be somewhat different,” I didn’t, and was working with the tools that I had at the time to make the best of the situation I was in, back then.
I’ve known people, who, maybe with the skills that I possessed at the time, I didn’t treat with the care of concern I should have. Or at times might have given permission to others to use my friendship in I way that I neither felt I deserved nor expected. But this is part of my history that makes me who I am.
The difference between being a victim of the past and a victor of the past is our ability to learn the lessons of the past and set ourselves free from the chains or liens we impose on ourselves. It is then that we take back the power to see our past with fresh eyes and take the learnings from the experiences.
All well and good, but seems pretty lofty – how can I relate it to everyday?:
The Good, the Bad and the Indifferent
Our memories are not unchangeable photographs but constantly edited movies – the past is updated in our mind to suit our present reality or it can be influenced by others. Ever had an experience when you reminisced with friends about an event and then later thought “wait a second, was it really so good/bad?” How we repaint our past affects how we see things that are happening around us – what we focus on, expands. If we take a broad negative brushstroke on past and broken relationships, then we’ll have a much more pessimistic view on those happening around us. But if we find out something more about ourselves, our strengths and even our weaknesses, that self-knowledge is a gift to us – and we can choose to paint that more compassionately. By extending the acknowledgement of emotional colours from our past, we can often see the past with fresher eyes.
Mind, Body and Emotions
Listen when your body speaks. Our past isn’t just held in our memories, but in our being. Ever felt your stomach tighten in a particular situation? Or an ache happen when remembering someone? Sometimes we relegate to our bodies what we don’t want to deal with emotionally. For example – I had a small injury with my shoulder years back in a rugby game. While they tend to take some time to heal, my shoulder should be well and good right now. It’s not – whenever I’m under stress or I repeat patterns of the past, the shoulder flares. Even during a workout months ago, I pulled my knee strangely – minutes later the knee was fine but my shoulder was hurting… Listen to your body and let it know you’re ready to deal with the emotional component to the pain or the past. It will tell you and then you can heal your history, your self.
The Art of Letting Go
Forgiveness would be a four-letter word if it weren’t so long… Many people think that it takes two to tango in any relationship, so the other should be sorry and apologise first. However, when I found out that there was more than saying “I’m sorry”, forgiveness took on its own power. Forgiveness is for you and releases you from the reactive bonds you have with someone. It allows you to see the past without the emotional rubbish that hazes our perceptions and approaches to life. It doesn’t mean that you close your eyes to what happened in your past – you see it more clearly, as an event without the sensitivities that make us feel mad, sad or bad about our past. The power is in NOT forgetting, but just forgiving so that it has no button-pushing, resonating control over us any more.
There is no one in my life that I’d like to erase (like in the movie) – each person I have interacted with has been a gift for my own growth. Understanding that fills my days and nights with ‘eternal sunshine’. Happy June!
Input needed: Question to ‘expats’ – ever moved, either away from home or back home? What were the toughest things for you – what helped you the most. Appreciate your help on this – will post results in the upcoming months. Thanks!