Recently, I have reached a new level of surrender with respect to painful events of the past. Mainly with regrets of my own behaviours. On a much deeper level, I am learning to let go of these regrets that at one point, used to bounce around inside my head like a ball of “flubber” (fictional flying rubber from the 1963 Disney movie that would bounce perpetually, never losing energy).
More than ever before, I am finding it an automatic response to place painful memories and regrets of the past where they belong…. in the past.
It is a typical characteristic of an alcoholic to ruminate self-destructively about regrets and resentments so I know I come by it honestly. Throughout my life, I had trained myself to assault myself over and over with the past. It was not until I began to understand recovery that this habit began to lose strength.
Today, when pain of the past comes to mind, I envision myself picking up the event, and placing it in a container labelled, “The Past”. I close the lid and walk away. Knowing full well and resting in the fact that there is nothing I can do to change the events of the past.
Furthermore, God as I understand him assures me that he casts my wrongs into his “sea of forgetfulness”, which tells me that God actively practices forgetting that which he does not wish to remember. If I am created in his image, should I not seek to do the same? So I envision God as the keeper of The Past container… this is my process of surrender.
There is a widely held belief that we cannot forget our past. But really though, is this completely true? Can we not progress toward forgetting by removing the emotional charge from what were once painful events of the past? I believe we can learn to. I have found I have made progress in this area over the years and that those once painful memories begin to dim.
And as I fill my mind with new and positive things, the painful past dims even more. To me, this is not denial, it is moving on. And like a highway sign fades in the rearview mirror, so I believe our regrets and resentments can if we learn how to let them go.
Just this week, an event of the past came to mind that at one point had hit me like a torpedo. It was something my ex-wife had said to me as she was walking away from our marriage. When it was said, I felt like I had been punched in the chest and had the wind knocked out of me. I felt this injury over and over again for years.
My recent realization of it was that I had actually for the most part forgotten it happened. There is virtually no emotional sting to it anymore, and my life has been so full in the past several years of new and wonderful things for which I am deeply grateful for, that that once life-changing hurt that I centred my life around for a time actually faded completely. And when it did reappear, it had almost no sting and I was able to envision picking it up and placing it in that place called The Past yet again. And there it sits losing even more of its power, and I will probably forget it again as life moves on full of new wonders, challenges, and victories.
So are we sure we can’t forget? I am convinced that we can, through practice and repetition, actively and progressively forget. For me, it is largely by keeping the past where it belongs… in the past.