Hanging the memory
A SPIRITED SOUL - Jeannie E. Javelosa (The Philippine Star) - January 16, 2016 - 9:00am

I have been working with memories. By this I mean, I have been listening to people work their memories out, as I try to work mine, too. Over dinner with a friend, she was lamenting a relationship of 35 years, which she just could not get out of. Addiction, obsession, habit perhaps, whatever the reasons are, she cannot break away from it knowing that the relationship is destroying her very sense of self, creating such low self-esteem as she would take whatever her man would dish out to her.

Listening to her talk, I was watching how she would quickly fall into the pattern of talking about memories of the past, the trips abroad, the experience of betrayals he did with other women, his neglect for her. And like a dog trying to bite its tail it cannot reach, she continues to go around in circles, and could not get to a new level.  My question to her was, in going back to all those memories, why did she want to make herself feel so useless, unwanted and rejected? “How long will this go on?” she asks me (this relationship is already 35 years, take note). I respond in jest, “Until you consciously choose to work to get out of that state. The pain will just intensify to a point to nudge you out of this state. If you were like this already in your thirties, and forties, and fifties, we can also wait until you are 60 or 70 years old to realize this.”

Selective remembering is also only about the “good old days.” I remember another discussion where the woman just kept talking about her childhood, seemingly the happiest time of her life constantly wanting to return there. Then promptly she fell into a depression about the state of her life and could not seem to see the joy in the present. And like two fishes following each other’s tailfins, she would go around in circles, unable to find insight in the process. My questions to her were: “Why was it she didn’t want to grow up? How can she see her life in the lens of a journey and not get stuck to see only that one memory as her only happy one? Were there not others that she could add to her list of happy memories?

Then there is the memory of physical or emotional abuse, which strikes at the deepest core of one’s being, where karmic situations play out to push the soul to transcend through anguish, shock or trauma. Often there are pay-back issues between souls in situations like rape, wife beating, emotional manipulations, abortion, suicide, even murder. This is where professional help is needed (either from psychiatrists and counselors who will go the scientific-medical-logical way or healers who will go the more physical-emotional route) to help the person process the memory.

Memories are like signposts to reflect where we are now in our journey. We bring to memories the emotional associations, or the intellectual understanding of the state. These are two lenses: one is emotional (courageously diving and staying and entering into whatever painful emotion arises. The other: intellectual (using all the logic we could muster). In my own personal workout in understanding memories as a tool for transformation, I use these two lenses to process this memory from pain, and flip it around into understanding and wisdom. It has not been easy. And like practice of anything, it needs time and effort, and I am constantly at it. Why? Because I choose to be happy and whole. This is the end goal. Period. To bring wholeness and happiness to each step in our life, to each moment of our day, no matter how much baggage of memories we carry — this, I believe is a worthy goal to work for.

When a sad, painful memory comes, we also suppress it and push it into the unconscious, so we do not need to deal with it. We dive into work, logic, push our bodies in active sports, create a busy lifestyle, surround ourselves with friends. But such suppressed memories never really go away. When symbolic triggers,  such as images, words or even music, come to bring these memories up again, we ruminate all the negative aspects of the memory and literally get depressed. This is the pattern for those who suffer clinical depression. They only bring out the negative, stay in the emotion and sit there. If the person is still wounded in that space, the memory will continue to haunt and bring anguish right away. This is the first sign that this memory needs to heal, so focus there. And dive into it, understand it, feel it. No other way but down and in. Do all that needs to be done — write, cry, read, study but most of all have the courage to feel the inner wound of the memory: is it Grief? Release? Control? Shame? Anger? Rejection? There are countless colors, nuances and definitions of the shadow side of emotions that will arise. Allow this for a time, and then, hang the memory. Yes, “hang the memory.”

By this phrase, I mean leave the memory suspended in your mind space, and step back into yourself, find your logical mind to try to look at the context of the memory. Why did this memory come up now? Why is the memory hinge on another past memory? Think the memory, not feel it. Try to see if from another lens, from that of the mind, and not the heart. This process will slowly but surely unhinge it from your unconscious mind. You may be blessed with the grace of understanding why things were that way, and why your life is this now. The “hanging of the memory” is the very crux of the healing journey to wholeness. The most immediate relationship we need to have…with ourselves. We owe it to ourselves to look back to our lives with gentle love, compassion, working our shadow memories as early as we can. No matter how old or young we are. The sooner we learn how to “hang our memories,” the deeper our healings. And we come closer to our wholeness and happiness.

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