"Most people think that shadows follow, precede, or surround beings or objects.
The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses, and memories.”
These days many of us use the social media of Facebook to find and re-connect with old friends and/or school acquaintances of the past. This can be quite fun and bring back many old memories we haven’t thought of in a long time. As I am coming to the end of this year, 2015, in my attempt to honor my father’s life in a true way, I am intrigued with the memories that are surfacing for me. It is through these old memories, blasts from the past, that we can also gain greater insights into ourselves. We can use these to see old patterns of our parents, our grandparents if we know them or hear stories of them, and ourselves. Seeing the patterns helps us to bring consciousness to them for us and then to make different choices in our lives.
Through my work, I love to continue to learn for myself and also to help others. One of the new tools I am working with and learning is the Imago work as founded by Harville Hendricks and Helen Hunt. One of the things I love about it is its ability to bring out old memories to see how they shape our relationships today. Working with my patients, it is also fun to help them to see the patterns that re-occur for them as they are so familiar to them from their early lives.
One young woman, I work with is finding a pattern that she is realizing comes from her early experiences in life. In her family, she has constantly found her to be the one who helps others, and when she needs help, finds herself stranded. She then realized that she does the same thing in her choice of friends and boyfriend. She unconsciously chooses friends who need her and in her experience are “needy”. Most of the time she enjoys being in the helper role and the one person they come to for help. It makes her feel good…..until it gets too overwhelming and she realizes she needs to focus on herself. Even her boyfriend whom she leans on for many things, she finds that when she really needs his help with something, he is not available. This is familiar to her. Even though she doesn’t like it when she needs help, it is what she knows and where she found her power in her early life. Her mother and father were teenage parents. They were children themselves when they birthed her. Her role became helping her mother; especially when her parents separated and divorced. Then when she was with her father, she would feel like she needed to help him emotionally. Recently she told me a poignant story. When she was 5 years old, kindergarten age, her mother would wake her up and then have to go off to work. This five-year-old was left at home to get herself ready for school. This included getting dressed, brushing her teeth and hair, eating breakfast, and then catching her bus to school. Can you imagine at five being responsible for all of this? She remembers feeling good and powerful by being praised for taking care of herself. She brings this same dynamic to her life today and is in the process of changing it.
My father too was a helper. During the Depression when he was little he and his mom were living by themselves for a year or so while his father was in another city. He was left on his own a lot of the time also. He helped his mother by being self-sufficient. He was the only one he knew he could count on and in his life even today, he is the only one he trusts or counts on. It is hard for him to take emotional help from others. He can take money from others, but emotional support, no. In life, he was a helper; in his work and personally. He would over help and didn’t know the boundaries of when to stop and empower another.
Our blasts from the past do affect us. His grandparents were immigrants and left their homeland at young ages with children. His grandmother was orphaned from her family and sent to live with another family as a young girl. This pattern was repeated in his parent’s lives and in his life. I look at this pattern and see where and how it affects me, in my past and also in my present. I look at how it affects me personally and in my relationships.
Small Lifestyle Changes that Promote Big Results:
Take a moment and close your eyes. Breathe deeply two or three times. With your eyes closed think back to a time when you were younger that has importance to you. Sometimes just having the intent that you want a memory to surface that is important, is all it takes if you don’t have one come to you easily.
What do you remember? How old are you? How does this memory affect you today? It could be of your parents fighting, or you fighting with them or a sibling, or a good memory of import, or something you have been proud of or something you are ashamed of, and so on. Do you repeat in some way a pattern you see if this memory? Again, here we are just noticing and not trying to do anything.
Next, ask yourself how you could do things differently by action or by how you react. What could you do, moving forward from the present into the future that could use this memory in a good way?