“So we beat on,
boats against the current,
borne back ceaselessly
into the Past.”
This final line from The Great Gatsby, so recently reprised for us, was my tagline for many years of this life. I felt so much more alive in some specific memories from my late teenage years that nothing in the Present could ever measure up. This has changed for me, I realize, over the past few years, but why? As I have developed the approach to personal life reflection and future prospection which I call the Life Maps Process, I have piloted every step before applying it with others. One of these techniques is called Re-Vision a Past Transition. (One of our weekly topics will allow you to practice this in your own way, if you like.) I revisited a traumatic moment with my father when I was 17. I journaled in first person, present tense, writing a dialogue between me and my Dad as if it had occurred the day after he had unleashed his raging temper against me when I simply had tried to defend my brother about something at the dinner table.
The words don’t matter here. But the exchange between my memory of my father at that time and my today-self that could engage with him without fear or the hurt and anger I felt then was transformative. We got to say to each other things we really might have said, apart from the heat of the moment. He got to hear my pain; I got to hear his frustration about a teen-aged daughter in the late 1960’s who was headstrong and, in his belief, needing to be tamed to prevent hard knocks in “the real world” (his view) down the road.
This conversation that I journaled with my father is as real–perhaps more because I directly engaged instead of shrinking from the immediate moment–as the actual scene that had occurred so many years ago. It has deeply revised my “memory” construction of the event. This sort of re-visioning, I feel deeply, freed me forever from that interaction with my Dad that had scarred me for years. I cannot remember back to that event without remembering the coming to terms we experienced in our ‘later’ dialogue.
From freeing myself of this “stuck” memory, I seem to have released myself in general from “living in the past” altogther, even freeing myself from being ‘bound’ to those positive experiences I was so holding onto. Now that I see that memories are not necessarily fixed or frozen ‘in time’, I am free to be more flexible in the Present. Again then, past-present-future are entangled; you can’t change one without affecting them all.
And so, another form of Better Endings.
I know some of you are writing your historical rewrite and I hope to see your stories in my email! Feel free to send Comments too!
- 10 Ways Journaling Can Improve Your Life (lifehack.org)