Do you have memories of moments in your past that you feel ashamed of or embarrassed by? Perhaps you felt manipulated, pressured, or bullied to do something you would not normally have done. Do any of these memories still cause you to cringe or feel bad?
There are some things we like to tuck in the far reaches of our minds to never, ever remember. They can be big moments or small moments. We know time diminishes their impact, but we also know that time cannot reliably make the pain go away.
I have had many of these moments, both big and small. In one particular situation when I was in the 4th grade, I found myself standing in the girl’s bathroom at school with a group of friends, making plans to beat up another little girl after school. I never fought and I was an adamant believer in total non-violence. But invariably, there would be times at school that one of my friends would get very hurt feelings from someone else, want to fight that person, and have all of her friends join her. This is where the bathroom meetings would come in.
The girl that was angry rallied us all together and challenged us for loyalty, “Who is going to come and help me beat up ‘so-and-so’ after school?” Everyone started screaming, “I will!”
We all knew that no one would end up anywhere after school except going where they were supposed to go. But this was some kind of a war ritual we went through every now and then. I would stand there, knowing that I would never fight anyone and that I did not believe that violence was a solution to disagreements. However, I would also watch my righteous feelings, my feelings of protectiveness over my friend. So despite wanting to leave and have the whole thing over, I went along with everyone and would scream, “I will!” at the top of my lungs.
These moments of discrepancy in my very soul caused me much pain.
Step 1: Forgive Yourself
Every time a memory such as this surfaces, I work on forgiving myself. For this particular memory, I would remind myself that I was only a little girl at the time. Then I would go in deeper and try to have compassion for myself and do my best to release the pain.
Step 2: Change the Memory
Whatever is left of the pain requires another approach, which is to change the memory. I begin to create all of the different ways that I could have behaved or spoken differently. I repeat this process until I find something to do and say that feels very solution-oriented, healing, and right.
Then I go over the memory with my new approach until I feel a release of the pain, a strengthening, and that the part of me that had felt weak is bolstered.
This process can be a learning curve but it is also an energizing one. It can lead us to be exactly who we want to be, no matter what the circumstances.