Saturday, 16 October 2010

Memories are not always what they seem

In the last few days I've come into contact again with people I haven't heard from in decades. What I find fascinating is the thought of what they might make of me now. The person I was is not who I am now by any means, yet there remains a core at the heart of me that has never changed. To me all that's happened is I've come out of my shell; found my own meaning to my life and become aware of the things that are meaningful to me.

This isn't a process that happened overnight. It has been an evolutionary development, shaped by many acquaintances, many encounters along the way. Some have been happy events, lucky breaks and chance meetings that have helped me find my way; but equally even the unhappy times, the rejections and downright nasties have helped to form and define who I am today.

My brother once commented "how would it be if we chose only to remember the bad things about a person" when he was confronted with the news that someone was thinking ill of someone he cared for. Wise words. It's all too easy to forget all the good things about someone because they seemingly do or say something surprising; seemingly out of the blue that doesn't fit with what we're used to.

I believe we will never know a person in entirety so they will do things that won't always 'fit' with what we think we understand about them. Does that mean we didn't know or understand them at all? Of course not, we've merely hit a new facet of their character; and that new facet is a mark of trust for them to share it with us no matter how lovely or unpleasant it is.

In bereavement counselling I encountered memories of some unpleasant events I had as a child. But as a child they didn't occur to me as being unpleasant, because as a child I was none the wiser. Only as an adult did I realise I had been mistreated. As it didn't trouble my conscious mind then I decided it would be silly to become upset about it as an adult. The pain was in the past and in the past it hadn't really registered in my consciousness. All too often when we recollect we impose our current values, emotions and thoughts on those memories which falsifies the true account of the event.

The people involved back then hadn't woken up one day and decided to make my life awful. Their thoughts were elsewhere, troubled by other things which shoved other people's needs aside. They didn't set out to be harmful or malicious, they were preoccupied in their own world. That's important to identify.

I realise, while writing this that it is of no comfort to those who were/are badly and/or regularly abused. All I can suggest and urge you to do to is to seek support from the many agencies available to improve your situation. It is unbelieveably hard to make that decision. But is has been done by those even more terrified than you. It takes phenomenal courage to make that first step, but you're worth it and you're not alone. Many have done it before you to break the chain of abuse to leave it far behind them, and they have gone on to live much happier lives. See the links on the right hand side for sources of help.

Memories can all too easily be magnified out of proportion and distorted. People in abusive situations are good at forever hoping that good times will return or that the promise of "sorry, I'll never do it again" will be kept. We can yearn for the good times to return just as much as we can dwell on the bad and by doing either we lose sight of the here and now.

However, once clear of the traumatic events, over time they do become a blur whereby not every millisecond is remembered unless we make the effort to keep reliving them. Then the trick is to distract yourself from them with something pleasant whenever you can. e.g. I can't remember in much detail the head-on car crash I was once in, nor much of being sectioned, nor the boyfriend that hit me, nor the days of sobbing my heart out at the loss of each of my parents. Part of the reason is because I am clear of those events and chosen to move on from them instead of reliving them daily.

To counter the onset of depression I've learned to count the good things instead of the bad. They maybe little pleasures but they all matter - the scent of flowers, dappled sunshine or a cleansing wet and windy day. The cosy feeling of getting warm when it's been cold; an unexpected smile from a complete stranger; the sound of some unfamiliar music that I instantly fall in love with; things that make me laugh, or the memory of finding a book that has since turned into one of my treasured possessions; not forgetting the quiet still moments when the hubbub of the world leaves me in peace.

From that point I find I can work toward collecting more pleasures everywhere I go and in everything I do. These are unique to each and every person. So here's another exercise for you...

Count up your treasured memories and then set yourself the task of collecting more.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful stuff. I love what you've written here, it's inspiring.


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