Making Peace With Our Past
Charity’s June 2020 Newsletter
|Honoring our Past|
A few weeks ago, families across the country celebrated the role that mothers play in our lives and in a few short weeks, people will again do the same to celebrate fathers. While I too believe it is important to honor the caretakers in our lives, I always approach such holidays with a sense of trepidation as I think about those who have a more complicated relationship or experience with their parents. I think of those who have lost their fathers or mothers and grieve with the approach of such holidays. I wonder about those who have experienced abuse or neglect at the hands of their parents and how such days likely bring up an array of complicated emotions. Then there are those of us who may not have known someone in the role of mother or father and perhaps feel a sense of longing or yearning rather than celebration on such days.
So, if these holidays are so filled with nuance and complicated emotions, why would I dare to bring them up in a newsletter that is meant to speak to everyone?! It’s because I think that whatever our relationship to our parents and ancestors may be, such days give us an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve come from and honor our past in a way that honors our present and ourselves.
While we may indeed celebrate our mothers on Mother’s Day, we can also use this as a time to express gratitude to any of those who have nurtured us or appreciate the ways in which we’ve learned to love and care for ourselves. Similarly, when Father’s Day arrives this month, those who have strong relationships with their fathers can celebrate that while others may take time to reflect on others who have protected them throughout their life or the ways in which they’ve learned to provide for themselves.
No matter where we currently are in our lives and relationships, we’ve all come from somewhere and all have a story to tell. While many aspects of these stories are painful and difficult, the story and person behind the story deserve to be celebrated. Therefore, whatever your relationship with your parents may be and no matter what these holidays bring up for you, I hope you’ll take time this year to honor you, your past, and your ongoing story.
Steps to Making Peace with our Past
|One of my dearest friends and mentors, Marc Pimsler, talks about healing, and what many refer to in drug and alcohol addiction as recovery, as a three-stage process. He states that recovery as we often discuss it is incomplete and fails to capture the ongoing process and multiple layers of healing. He teaches healing as three distinct phases: Recovering, Uncovering, and Discovering. These are briefly outlined below and can be used as you reflect on your past, identify ways to honor where you’ve come from, and explore how to fully integrate your past into your present.|
Phase 1: Recovering
Recovering is the first and most widely recognized phase of the healing process. This refers to recovering the ability to feel and ceasing the need to numb those feelings with self-medicators. So often, we are unable to tolerate our difficult emotions and look to things such as drugs, alcohol, food, relationships, and other activities to numb our distress and distract us from the pain of our own experience. In order to heal, we must regain the ability and willingness to be present in our own experience which means we must cease the use of whatever we use to numb.
Phase 2: Uncovering
Uncovering is the second, and in my experience, the most avoided phase of the healing process. Uncovering means that we must stick with our experience long enough to uncover whatever is hidden beneath our numbing. To do this, we can use the acronym FITT which stands for Fact, Impact, Track, and Truth. Once we have ceased numbing, we can take an honest look at our past and identify the facts of what we’ve experienced. Once these facts have been named, then we can look at the impact of those experiences and see how they influenced our sense of self and how we learned to survive in the world. As we understand the impact of our prior experiences, we are able to recognize the track and trajectories such experiences set us on. Only then are we able to examine the truth which is that while we are all flawed beings, we also all have a story to tell and experiences that have shaped who we’ve become.
Phase 3: Discovering
Discovering is the final and often most desired phase of the healing process. Discovering refers to discovering the true self. We are able to encounter our true and most genuine selves only when we have ceased our attempts to numb our feelings and have been able to see the truth of our prior experiences for what they are. Only when we do these two things are we able to live with our private and public selves in relation together, thereby coming into full contact with our true self, the person who we’ve always been and longed to have respected and valued by others.
“I use memories, but I will not allow memories to use me. . .”