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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Making peace with painful memories

When painful memories arise in you, don’t avoid them. Don’t fear them. Let them come, you revisit them and, after seeing their futility, just let them go.

Memories are funny things. They just crop up – often randomly. Without any ostensible trigger. When they are about painful situations that you have been through, such memories can weigh you down for days and weeks on end at times. Because they are difficult to deal with, you will want to shut them away. But they refuse to budge. This is why painful memories linger on and continue to haunt you.

But there is an effective way to deal with them though.

When I am confronted with a painful memory, I let the event replay in my mind completely. I allow all the characters and emotions – the anger, grief, guilt, or any other feeling associated with the event – to play out and examine everything, and everyone, clearly. In such times, I play the role of an observer, a fly on the wall, who is watching the entire proceedings dispassionately – just as someone watches a movie. Every time I do this, I find myself detached from whatever has happened, even if the event has affected me deeply in the past, and, perhaps therefore, I am able to forgive the way I have been treated by someone or even by Life itself.

Memories are just a way of your mind dragging you to live clinging on to the past. And as long as you are living in the past, you cannot enjoy the present. But you can neither ask your mind to shut up, nor can you shut out memories. The only way you can deal with debilitating, painful, draining memories is for you to be aware and understand the futility of revisiting them.

Of what use is a memory of someone having betrayed you? Can you go back and change things? Of what use is a memory of the death of a loved one? Can you bring back that person from the dead? Does feeling guilty over a mistake you committed – however grave it may have been – ever going to help you undo what you did?

I have struggled too, for a long time, over memories of being called a cheat by members of my own family (I have recounted my painful experience in my Book, “Fall Like A Rose Petal – A father’s lessons on how to be happy and content while living without money; Westland Books, August 2014). For months and years I grieved over trying to understand why my family failed to understand me. Then one day, during my mouna (silence period) session, it suddenly occurred to me that my pining for understanding from my family members was making no sense to them. I owed them money. And until I repaid them, the label of “cheat” was unlikely to be ripped off me. That’s when I concluded that revisiting the memory itself was futile. Unless I gave my family what they wanted – money – there was going to be no closure to the episode from their side. And since malicious words once spilled, erroneous labels once stuck, baseless opinions once expressed, cannot really be taken back, it would never matter, not to me, not any more, what my family thought of me – even after I repaid the money! That’s really when I understood how futile it is to revisit painful memories.

You too can make peace with your painful memories. Just examine them with detachment. And you will, pretty soon, realize how meaningless it is to hold on to them. 

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