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  • Writer's pictureClifford J Buhl, PsyD. LP

Making Peace With the Past and Those That We Love

I wrote the following to help me make peace with my past and with those that I love who shared that history with me:

I will not and need not deny my memory and experience. I have as much right as anyone to speak my truth. If I am afraid to speak my truth it is usually because I do not feel safe sharing or feel shame. To speak my truth to those I love is to risk rejection or conflict. I must try to be brave when it comes to love. I must strive to be honest with myself and others. Lying is destructive to trust, and making someone lie because they remember the past differently is also destructive. It is a part of respecting the person that I love that I will try to be honest and open to the possibility of being wrong or mistaken. I must always remember that it is ‘my truth’ that I remember and not ‘the truth.’ I try and remember that people often remember events differently or focus on different aspects of the same situation. It is a known fact that nearly all of our memories change over time and are biased by our mood when we record or replay memories.

When I remember the past, I will try to remember that the past can fool me. I will try and remember that I do not really know for absolute certainty what happened and I can only ever rely on my imperfect recollection. It is a warning sign that I am overly emotional and off track if I think that I know something 100%. Often I remember one fact that hurt me and forget others that reassure me. Often my memory focuses on the memory that feels painful to me while minimizing, justifying, or explaining memories that are painful to others. I must always include the possibility that my memory is biased and that I am at least capable of forgetting, making a mistake, misinterpreting, having a blind spot, or not being ready to handle the truth. To forget this is leave ourselves blind to our own part in disagreements with those we love. To forget this is to continuously live and die for mistakes that we all will make.

So what do I can I do when I remember something differently from people I love? I work hard stop myself from assuming they are lying, wrong, cowardly, have a blind spot, are trying to cheating me, are lazy or crazy. It is very difficult for me because my memory makes me feel right! My memory can protect me from repeating the same mistakes but it can also see danger everywhere. I can be tricked by pain, by my thoughts, my emotions and my expectations. I speak my truth taking into account that my experience may not be how they remember it. It is vital that I get to tell the people I love how I feel about what I remember, and it is harmful relationships with people I love to badger, embellish, fact select, punish, keep score with, or take my pound of flesh for how I remember things. I try hard not to punish the people I love. I try hard to trust that the people I love do not want to hurt me. The more that I trust that the less fear I have to experience.

I will try not to focus on who was wronged, who was worse, who had it worse, or other comparisons. Pain manipulates memory. The human brain is meant to pay careful attention to pain. As social animals we always want to be sure we are not getting cheated. When we go back to the past we almost always feel pain or cheated in some places. Reliving this pain over and over is not helpful and does not make us safer. Resolving our memory with others often feels like our task, having agreement on what happened is wonderful, but it often overwhelms love and forgets about the larger picture.

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