The Way We Weren't

Memories may light the corners of Barbra's mind, but they often darken our own psyche. Resilience is found in your ability to understand memory as a particular tool that can be employed to bring understanding, comfort or inspiration.

The way we remember our lives is shaped by both the context in which events occurred and the later circumstances in which those same events are recalled. When you think of a challenging episode in your life, you can discover new perspective with the leverage of time and maturity and faith.

In the opening of Deuteronomy, Moses begins by revisiting the past 40 years of arduous desert travel. The memory Moses shares does not exactly line up with the facts described in earlier books of Torah.  An empathetic reader might understand that Moses is recalling the past through a lens of grief.  After all, he is being denied access to the Promised Land and his leadership is ending.

Moses may be reinventing the past to self-soothe, as his disappointment is crushing. With great devotion to God and the Children of Israel, Moses is also in a process of “revisioning” so that he can reconcile with the past and find the inspiration to urge the people forward. As his speech progresses he comes to terms with his fate and urges the people to be obedient and love God.

It's certainly common today to hear about individuals "rewriting history." Whether we are critical or cynical, distorting facts is a dangerous endeavor, especially when used for self-aggrandizement. But there's another kind of history rewrite that is an exploration of psyche and soul. Psychologist Leon Seltzer describes this as “revisiting the past to correct (or "revision") the unfavorable conclusions you came to about yourself.”

The “revisioning” concept began with psychologist James Hillman in the 1950s who taught that the tool of revisioning the past can be used to positive effect. Rather than get trapped in an old paradigm of guilt, shame, or pain, we can revision our past to interpret our lives anew. After all, if maturing brings the benefits of enhanced perspective, the way we can understand events in our lives now should be far more cognitively astute than when we were younger.

The effect of divorce on children is a good example. Psychologists often warn that we must assure the child that the separation of parents is not their fault. If the child moves forward in life with a sense of guilt because they are implicated in their parents divorce, then his or her adulthood will be guided by a misperception of self, not being good enough, feeling shameful or unforgiveable. Revisioning would bring awareness, understanding and healing.

Another example comes from the movie “Good Will Hunting.” Late in the film, Matt Damon, as the genius cum janitor, has a break-through with his therapist, played by Robin Williams.  The key phrase prompting Damon’s character is Williams saying repeatedly, “it’s not your fault.” The therapist encourages the patient to revision the past with new understanding and to confront the negative emotions carried forward into adulthood.

As we mature, we have the opportunity to engage in a life review. Doing so we can assert our adult prerogative to revision the events that shaped our identity.  In reviewing the past we can discover where self-defeating or self-invalidating beliefs originated.  With mature cognition and awareness, we can modify those feelings that have influenced our behaviors and kept burning fires of conflict.

There is a spiritual component to revisioning. Even as the psyche is disturbed the soul remains pure. By revisioning our history, we clear away the scar tissue of psyche enabling the soul to emerge brighter. As Moses revisioned the past, he revealed and activated a soul that could then guide the people toward God with great love.

If you have been hard on yourself, consider revisioning your past to bring new understanding to the events that bruised your psyche. Releasing some of the pain can open pathways for your soul to better guide you.

Regarding your past differently--that is, revisioning it--enables you to make peace with it. Accepting what can never be changed helps you exonerate yourself (and everybody else) for whatever went wrong in the past. Revisioning times gone by offers an ideal opportunity to activate your resilience and your soul.

R’ Evan Krame