Photo by Sonja Andersen
“Change happens when we change the way we think about ourselves”
Healing is a vital part of good mental health. In last week’s article, forgiving oneself was shown to be a critical component in that process (click here to read that article). However, attempting to heal horrific memories is perhaps a whole other issue. It’s difficult enough not allowing them to traipse through your mind at will, so is it possible they can be healed?
It is possible. However, healing that type of memory does not mean it will never happen again. Allow me to share how a hurtful memory was healed for me in hopes that it shed some insight into dealing with your own.
One of the my most traumatic experiences occurred when I was fourteen. The details of the story are not pertinent but in a nutshell, I was being severely reprimanded by our school principal. Actually, he was more than a principal. He was also the head of the church and I literally believed the words he spoke were put there by God.
I was being chastised wrongfully in front of the boys in my class. Not only was there nothing I could do, I also felt tremendous shame. It was as though God was saying these things. I was confused, embarrassed, and a host of other self-destructive thoughts. (It wasn’t until years later I realized those accusations were unfairly put on me.) This incident robbed me of a lot of self-esteem and turned it into doubt and unworthiness.
Many years later, while relating this story to my therapist, I got angry and wished he would come back from the dead so I could punch him in the mouth. Thankfully, those feelings no longer remain; however, the healing began when I became aware that it wasn’t what he said to me that caused the damage, it was that I believed the words he spoke. As a young boy, there was virtually no other choice but to believe those thoughts about who I was because it was as though God were speaking directly to me. Believing anything differently would have been akin to raising my hand and volunteering to go to hell.
By forgiving myself for believing those deplorable ideas about who I was as well as realizing I had no choice but to believe them, the healing could now begin.
Nowadays when this memory replays itself, instead of thinking about it in anger, it is perceived as a healing moment and an opportunity for growth. This memory, which used to create feelings from fear to anger, is now transformed into one of healing . Do I still get passionate telling the story? At times. But when I think about the forgiveness and healing, I literally feel my stomach muscles relax, the same spot where my butterflies occur. The memory remains. What changes is the way I understand it.
Perhaps you have had similar experiences or want to know more. Feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly. My thanks to Sonja Anderson for the beautiful picture. A friend and talented photographer, find out and see more of her work at: https://www.facebook.com/photographybyandersen.