Is It Possible To Authentically Transform A Traumatic Memory?
(Try This Relaxing Meditation to Begin)
Find a comfortable seat, a quiet time and place, and take several relaxing breaths…noticing if your inhalation or inspiration is the same depth and length as your exhalation or expiration; your release. Gently equalize your breath until your breathing is calming and circular. Notice areas of tension in your body or mind as you relax and imagine yourself surrounded by a safe, healing, loving circle of friendship. If you already belong to such a group, consider yourself very fortunate and imagine sitting within that circle now. If you have not yet found your circle of trusted friends, consider this virtual space of friendship yours to belong to if you wish.
Taking your time, breathe into any tensions you find in your body as well as breathing into any scattered, fretful, or fearful thoughts that may arise at this time. We can’t do this wrong! Our breath is our own as well as our collective. Our breath alone can be our meditation.
Today our focus will be on MEMORY, specifically our own personal fluid memories. Take another moment or two to sink a little deeper into your place of comfort, allowing yourself the time you need to relax and know that our circle of friendship supports you in your process here. And when you feel ready, slowly open your eyes, and whether you actually feel like it or not *Smile*. Yes, even if you have to fake it, curl your lips into a smile. Your brain will notice the physical gesture and respond with an infusion of comforting hormones. After another long collective breath, we're ready to move forward.
Most of us rely on our personal memories to be accurate, after all, they derive from our own experiences. But I’m not really referring to Memory in general. Today the focus is on how we remember the experiences of our lives and not so much on the fact that we often find our actual Memory Machine is inundated with more information and input than we can possibly manage well, if at all.
For this exercise, think back on a time when you shared an experience with another or others and later, each one had a different version of the same experience. I am certain we have all experienced this phenomenon. Most of the time we may feel as if our memory of the event or experience is the correct one. Others will feel the same. There may be common threads, but details can often vary – sometimes even wildly, according to our own lens, history, perception, willingness to be present as well as the length of time that has passed from the original event.
According to the researcher, Rosalind Cartwright, “Memory is never a precise duplicate of the original. It is a continuing act of creation.” Neurologist Oliver Sacks agrees, telling us, “Memories are not fixed or frozen, but are transformed, disassembled, and re-categorized with every act of recollection.” Reams of additional and readily available research and evidence also suggest that our experience of the past is always being transformed.
Today I invite us to take advantage of this as truth. Think of a memory that has heckled, restrained, or tortured you over the years. Perhaps a deep hurt inflicted intentionally or unintentionally by someone close. Perhaps a deep embarrassment or humiliation. Maybe you’ve noticed, as I have, that happy or pleasant memories have a silky, pleasant feel whenever they are invoked, but painful ones are like barbed wire, once stuck in, the barb is difficult to pull out without additional pain, so we don’t, we leave it to fester, hanging on in an attempt to avoid even more distress or pain. Our pain and traumas have informed our lives and perceptions, at times protected us, have given us excuses to remain stuck and unable to move forward. You can ask yourself if it is still necessary to hang onto the pain or if now is a good time to at least re-examine and perhaps begin to release the barbs or painful stories that can play over and over in our minds, keeping us stuck on that storyline. Is it time? Only you can know, of course. And of course, this is not necessarily an easy process with a quick or complete outcome, so I offer this as an ongoing exercise when the time is right and you have the time to fully embrace the invitation.
So the invitation today is to re-imagine your remembered life stories. Or how about just take that one difficult memory you'd like to diminish the impact of, one, in particular, that has caused anguish and ask yourself at this time, is it possible to heal or reduce that pain and revise the threads of the plot around that memory so that you might experience a redemption or rebirth, a release or healthy reassessment of your memories? Maybe being open to a current valuation of the past event, considering as many aspects of the circumstance as you can. Could doing this help heal the epic myth of your own history and destiny which could then carry over into your future awareness, happiness, success, or minimally, a greater sense of ease.
Thoughts for reflection:
a) Has your story of an original pain changed over time or has it become stuck in time as a personal soliloquy?
b) Do you have a memory of something hurtful that another person who mattered to you, said, or did to you? Looking back, was the memory true for both parties or not? If it was, does it remain as truth even now in your examination?
c) Are you willing to create a new more expansive version of your own truth, not to be disingenuous or in denial, but to adhere to your own healed version of your story?
d) If this is NOT your time now, what would it take for you to consider revising your painful memory as a contrast to a deeper understanding of what the particular memory means to you?
While you ponder the above prompts and/or consider any other aspects of your story,
I invite you to listen to STING as he performs his song FRAGILE
Live at the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Concert. (click on link below)
Healing takes time. Until we can, we simply can't.
Healing from trauma and pain can take a lifetime.
The time to begin is whenever you are ready.
Whatever time it is for you now, I welcome you to this virtual circle of friendship.