I've discovered that we can indeed change our past. I've done it.
My realization came through a recent exchange with a client. During our session she shared details around a traumatic childhood event that still haunts her. I mentioned that I had a similar event happen to me as a child. She immediately launched into how sorry she was that I'd gone through such a traumatic happening. Her reaction took me aback because I did not share the depth of pain & outrage that she expressed about her childhood memory – not even close. As a matter of fact, I had not thought much about that childhood event in years, whereas my client shared that her experience influences her feelings about herself and her life daily. “It has kept me from feeling safe or worthy.”, she said.
Why am I not more affected? My experience was similar. Am I in denial? I wondered.
How is it that we can feel so differently?
In thinking about it, I remembered that there was a time when I had felt traumatized by my past. A time when I had felt I could never be whole or happy because of things that had happened to me “back then”. That was before I reframed my thinking about past events. What I mean is that I started questioning the thoughts that I had previously blindly believed.
“My daddy didn't love me … I wasn't protected … Nobody cares what happens to me.” These are some of the thoughts that brought me pain for years and every time I'd think them I'd remember the events from childhood that “proved” them to be true and I would suffer.
Then I started exploring these conclusions I'd come to around life events. I started asking myself if some of the painful things I was believing were really true. I figured out that everything I believe has an opposite that is just as possibly true.
I began to turn some of these troubling beliefs around to see if their opposite might be true too.
“Daddy doesn't love me” turned into “Daddy does love me” and I began to look for evidence of that. I found as much evidence for the opposite, more positive beliefs as for the ones I'd been tormenting myself believing!
The most remarkable part was that when I started looking for evidence for the opposite beliefs –
“Dad does love me”, “I WAS protected”, “Others DO care what happens to me” – I started remembering a very different childhood! Memories that verified these beliefs began to surface.
I discovered that my mind cooperates by supplying the memories that verify whatever ‘story” I am currently believing. This is what mind does … it searches the psyche's data bank for the evidence needed to verify what it believes.
This technique has allowed me to reframe past traumas so that I now have a totally different past. It's not that I'm denying painful happenings … it's just that I no longer blindly believe the painful thoughts and conclusions that I came up with around these events. Instead I turn these old painful concepts into their opposites and find the evidence for that! This has me remembering a very different set of pictures from childhood – ones that are equally true and a lot more life affirming.
After all, why shouldn't I choose to remember a past that brings me an increased sense of well being? Especially when that past is just as true as the more painful life limiting past I was stuck with for so long.