02 Aug Ain’t Afraid O’ No Ghosts!
My son went this past weekend to one of those places that are supposed to be haunted. He and his fiancé have a bit of a fascination with that paranormal stuff and were curious enough to check it out. I’m not going to weigh in one way or the other about what I do and not believe about that but it sparked an idea in me to relate it to the ghosts that most of us do have around. Those would be the ghosts of poor relationships or happenings from the past that still can sometimes catch us off guard and whack us when we’re not looking.
These can be things like traumatic memories of abuse or neglect. They can be the recollections of relationships that robbed us of some of our sense of value and worth. Lots of things, really. And what most of us do is to try to put them into some sort of mental box, shove the box up on some mental shelf, close the door, and hope they stay hidden there. We do this attempted locking away because not only are those memories unpleasant to think about but many of them carry feelings of shame, weakness, and vulnerability. This is understandable but unfortunately, the stuffing down and hiding away tactic just doesn’t work.
In fact, just like “real” ghosts, these memories seem to thrive in the dark. The more we shove them away and the more we think we will never have to deal with them again, the worse they hurt when they find their way to the surface of our conscious minds. I’ve seen it so many times as a therapy client starts disclosing these memories in session. They often seemed ashamed that something from the past could have such an impact on them now. But when they realize that I am not going to demean them, or laugh at them, or use the memory against them, they are freed up to push the whole thing out into the bright light of our safe relationship. And there in that daylight, they find the wonderful relief of opening up the box and starting to let go of the power of the past. Finally, they have created an opportunity for beginning the journey of leaving their depression or trauma behind. It’s a most wonderful and satisfying experience as a therapist.
So, if you are one of those people who tried the long term tactic of stuffing in and hiding away your “ghosts”, allow me to ask you to consider a new approach. Find that safe relationship, even if it means getting into treatment with a professional and start the process of shining a bright light on those bad memories and learning that in that light, they can lose a lot of their power to haunt and hold you hostage.