Sunday, September 11, 2005

Facing the Past

How many times in life have we been faced by circumstances beyond our control that put us in the position of being forced to deal with the a situation/situations in our past that we’ve spent most of our lives running away from? Well, not actually running, per say, but definitely eager to put the behind us. How many times have you been admonished, "don't talk about it; it’s the past; let it go.” That's very good advice when we can do it.
Keeping the past in the past hoever can be very tricky business at times. It has the worst way of popping up when we least expect. Running into an old friend, an off hand comment of “remember when", or worse, an old boyfriend or lover popping up at the worst time. Needless to say you're not going to get rid of the past

The past is a part of us. It is the foundation of what our present as been built on. Our personalities have been shaped by it. Are we permanently imprisoned by our past? NO. I can't even say that loud enough. Yes, we have built on the past but we can definitely remodel or even tear down the house and build again. For those of us who were victims of childhood abuse or neglect, it seems impossible. The past is a constant reminder of shame, of guilt, of never knowing what will come next. We never knew what it was like to take ownership of our bodies, emotions and sometimes even our thoughts. That was then. This is now. It's time we learned how we can take back our bodies and minds. They belong to us and only us. No one should ever have that control again. I'll say it again you're not going to get rid of the past, its going to keep popping up now and then, but you're going to learn to handle it differently. Instead of it being an enemy hopefully instead of obsessing on the bad memories, slowly but surely the good memories begin to come.
"What good memories you say?” Was there a neighbor that would talk, listen and feed or just give you a safe place to hide at times? The kids you played with who may or may not have been abused themselves. There were some good times and memories even as infrequent as they may have been. I myself, remember the trips to Kentucky that we frequently took to see my step dad’s parents. It was the only time that he sobered up and stopped hurting or beating us. We didn't know why at the time but who cared? It was safe and we loved it. We had vacations in the summer with just my mother and the neighbor. We loved this neighbor so much and knew she loved us. There were special pets who loved us unconditionally. Yes, there were long periods of violence and humiliation but there were also memories stuck in here and there that didn't hurt and were good memories. For most of us those good memories were so overshadowed by bad that we couldn’t appreciate the good ones. Some may have only happened once and for a very short time perhaps, but they were good. That is the foundation you have to build on and yet, what do you do with the bad? That is what takes some work. We can’t demolish all the bad and throw it all in one big disaster dumpster. We have to sift though it just one more time. Not all of it of course, but we need to find the lessons we learned, the courage we had, and the strength we earned. Last but definitely not least, the wisdom and compassion we acquired along the way. Most, if not all of us, need help with this part of the process of recovery. A professional health worker such as psychiatrist, therapist, counselor, or pastor can be a really big help. For those of us with less serious problems to be worked through a good friend, journaling and reading self-help books may even do the trick. There are many organizations such as group therapy, al-anon, AA, women's shelters. I could go on and on but you get the point. They offer support and help. Even with a competent professional we can all use some outside support. For me a journal was almost a must. It helps you know where you've been, how far you’ve come, and it is a record of your journey. It keeps your thoughts and fears safe and orderly until the time comes that you will know what you want to do with them. You may sit down to journal about how angry or frustrated you are at a particular situation. Afterwards, lo and behold, you find that you anger is actually stemming from something totally different. That is what journaling is for. It's an avenue for your subconscious to speak. Where you are able to sort out you thoughts and feelings and get to the core of what you're really feeling and thinking. I’ve heard so many people say, “but what am I going to write in it?” That’s the beauty of it. You can write down anything that comes to mind. The trick isn’t in the writing but the attempt to put down on paper some of the things you have held and let build up for so long. It may be as simple as a physical way to release some of the tension. You don’t have to be a “writer” to write. There have been days when the only entry in my journal is, “I can’t think of anything to write about.” Those days, however, become farther and further between as you become more familiar and feel more comfortable writing down whatever it is that you’re thinking. It doesn’t have to be good or even make sense. You are giving yourself a physical non-threatening way to begin your inner dialogue. It goes without saying that you keep this journal private and in a place where only you can read it until you can decide whether or not to share it, burn it, or whatever you want to do with it.

The whole point of this conversation is that with help you can come to a point that the past is no longer so threatening. That many of us who finally took the “bull by the horns” and decided to face our past head on; found to our surprise that we could control our reaction to it. We could stop being afraid. We still have the rest of our lives ahead of us, so let’s get moving toward that more healthy future than constantly fearing the past. We only have today...the past is just the past. We want to train ourselves just as an athlete would for their hardest race; to be strong and healthy to make that today and tomorrow count for something. We are no longer victims we are survivors and we should give ourselves the respect that as survivors we deserve.
Kay L. Schlagel

It is the goal that is as important as much as the journey. Enjoy the journey...Kay L. Schlagel.