Memory And Experience
A Polish-born American philosopher named Alfred Korzybski had some very interesting things to say. One of them was:
"There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking."
Korzybski was also the first one who made this famous statement: "A map is not the territory," meaning that a map is only a symbol of experience, not the experience itself.
It is useful as a map only to the degree that it accurately represents an existing territory that can be visited. It may also be useful as a planning tool for a project, or for its value in making a fictional story more interesting.
In the same way, a memory is not the experience it represents, either. And a memory is only useful to the degree that it can provide some sort of sensory, emotional, mental, or spiritual benefit.
What we call a "bad memory" is only a symbol that represents some more or less unpleasant experience. It is not the experience itself. Believing that it is the same as the experience is what gets people into trouble with bad memories.
Some part of us creates memories of experiences and stores them in a way that allows at least some of them can be recalled. Another way to put it is that some part of us records our experiences (for now let's avoid the theories of how this is done). Memories, as records of experiences, are not like books in a library that never change over the years. That is to say, they are not static.
Memories are more like movies, videos, and audio recordings that can deteriorate, be enhanced, played louder or softer, be re-arranged and edited, have special effects added, be re-issued in new versions, and, apparently, even be deleted. Memories, even bad ones, can change "on their own" (meaning we don't know how it's done) over the years.
Bad memories, in particular, may get worse and have increasingly bad effects on our lives, or they can fade away to the point where we can no longer recall them no matter how hard we try. This brings us to out first possible technique for dealing with bad memories. This may be too wild for many people, but it is very powerful and very effective.
If a memory recording can change on its own without your conscious intention, then it can also be changed by you with your conscious intention. So the technique is to consciously re-edit the memory. Change the story. Imagine vividly that it happened differently. Invent something that makes the memory not so bad, or even good.
Remember, you are not trying to change history. You can't do that from where you are now. You are just changing your memory ABOUT what happened. And when you are able to do this successfully, it's no longer a bad memory. Like I said, that's an option. Maybe you like the idea, and maybe it's not for you.
Another approach is to change the energy of the memory. By "energy" I mean primarily the environmental, physical, and emotional energy that was recorded when the event occured. Or that you have added to it since.
If you have an "energetic" reaction to a particular bad memory, like chills or nausea or anger or fear (or all four), it's because those feelings are part of the memory recording. In addition, if, when you recall the memory, you try to repress the chills, clamp down on the nausea, get angry at the anger or fearful of the fear, what you are doing is adding more energy to the memory recording, making it easier to recall, and making the effects more severe each time you do recall it.
You see, memories are recalled, consciously or not, according to the intensity of the energy present at the time of the recording. To put it better, it's according to the intensity of your physical and emotional reactions to the event. The smaller the reaction, the harder it is to recall the memory. That's why, for most people, lunch two weeks ago Tuesday is virtually a non-event.
And it follows that the bigger the reaction at the time, the easier the memory is to recall. And that's what makes bad memories so bad.
When I say "change the energy of the memory," what I really mean is to change your REACTIONS to the memory. Again, this is not only powerfully effective, it's a lot more acceptable to most people once they've learned it.
So here it is. Sitting or standing, recall the memory, feel the place in your body where that memory affects you the most, then put all of your attention on relaxing that part of your body any way you can. When that part of your body feels better, start over, recalling, feeling, and relaxing as many times as necessary until you can recall the memory calmly (if you can still remember it). It's important to realize that with this technique you are not trying to change the memory in any way. All you are doing is changing your body's REACTION to the memory, which is the real problem in the first place.
Finally, let's take a cue from the story. The past is pau, over and done with. You are living now, not in the past. For all practical purposes, the past no longer exists. You can ignore the present and moan and groan and fill your mind with bad memories, but you are still living here and now, and not in the past.
The final technique for this session, then, is to fill your mind with awareness of the beauty and goodness in the present. Sure, there are bad things happening all over, but if you are willing to open your mind and your heart you will find that there are a lot more good things happening and a lot more good things to do.
When the good things in the world that are happening right now become more important to you than the bad things that are happening and the bad memories of bad things that have already happened, you are on your way to a good healing of mind, body, and spirit.
Ku'u welu! - Hang loose!