Rebuilding Your Life From The Past Forward
"You can't live in the past".
"Time heals all wounds".
"It's time to get on with your life."
These have got to be three of the most common things said to people who are in recovery from crap that's happened to them in the past. People who have no understanding of what it means to try and rebuild yourself from the heart outward and the ground up are most often the "caring" individuals who spout these absolutely useless words of advice.
Whenever I hear someone saying any of the above, or any number of variations on the theme, I feel like grabbing them by the shoulders and giving them a good shake. Maybe that way their brain will start firing on all cylinders for a change. After I'm sure I've got their attention, I would calmly explain a few things to them as per their trite little aphorisms.
First of all what the hell are they implying when they say stuff like that? Most times they are "subtly" saying you're being self indulgent and you need to stop wallowing in self-pity. That really becomes evident when they follow up their earlier words of wisdom with "everybody's had a tough life – look at me" as if that would settle the matter.
Hey guess what, not everybody is the same. I know that's a difficult concept for some people to get their heads around but it's true. We all have different aspirations, desires, and psychological make-ups; and that's only a start. They also seem to be able to ignore the fact that some things are harder to recover from than others. Nope they are the litmus test against which we are all to be judged.
The phrases themselves have very little meaning, or are comfortably ambiguous at best. Nobody actually lives in the past; sure time heals all wounds, some of them kill you eventually; and how do you know someone is not getting on with what he or she consider to be a life. Just because they don't do what you do, how does that make them a zombie?
Let us look at some harsh realities of people in recovery from crap that happened to them in the past. First of all the longer you've put off dealing with it, for whatever the reason, the harder it is to recover and the worse it beats the stuffing out of you. It doesn't matter to you at that moment in time that time may or may not heal that particular wound; it's wide open and gaping at that precise moment and sucking your whole soul into its depths. Finally, just what is recovery anyway if it isn't trying to get on with your life?
I can tell you from personal experience that being in genuine recovery is not something you do for fun and want to do for any longer than you have to. Implying that you can turn the process off and on at will and all of a sudden be better is not only insulting it shows an ignorance of what the process entails. Any person who can blithely say, "get on with your life" has never done the work, no matter what they claim to have overcome. The fact that they have that attitude is the first clue.
In my experience the people most inclined to say things like that are still too scared of that process and feel threatened by anyone who has the courage to even contemplate moving beyond who they once were to become who they could be. When I use the word recovery, I'm talking about the recovery of the self that lives in the realm of potential not about getting better from something.
I've written about the work Dr. Jeffery Young has done in past posts but I'll recap for those who haven't read them. Each of us has been shaped irrevocably by what has happened to us during our formative years. Our means of reacting to circumstances, the people we are attracted to, what we expect others to do for us, what we think we have to do in order to be accepted, and so on, were all imprinted dependant on what happened to us mainly in pre-pubescence.
Dr. Young has worked out various patterns of behaviour, what he calls Schemas that can be caused by a variety of potential circumstances in a home life. If you were the child of alcoholics you will grow up expecting to be treated in a certain manner, and continue to use the behaviour patterns, or copping mechanisms, that got you through that time period.
Sometimes, because that's what you are used to, and equate it as what is normal, you seek out those same circumstances over and over again throughout you adult life. The familiarity of the situation is comfortable for you because you can predict what will happen down to even when the relationship will end.
Co-dependency has the benefit of allowing you to tell yourself that you are doing something good, because you are trying to help somebody else. In reality all you are doing is helping to make the hole all the much deeper to climb out of for both of you.
Sometimes it takes a traumatic event to realize the trap you're in, other times you hit bottom, and sometimes it just seems to happen for no apparent reason except some part of your brain has decided enough is enough. Whatever the reason you have committed yourself to the complete overhaul.
The problem, or the great thing depending on your mood that day, is that once you discover that things need fixing you can't stop until you're done. The first, and sometimes hardest step is finding someone who you can work with to help you along the way. Even if you can do the work on your own, and you should do as much as possible on your own anyway, you need to have a professional ear to bounce shit off of. Someone who understands how the brain works so you don't end up just fooling yourself.
Personally I think this whole process of recreating oneself is the closest thing to a miracle each of us can perform. Giving birth to a child and raising it is taking an empty vessel and filling it up; re birthing yourself is looking at what you are, completely, honestly, and dispassionately and excising all that's unhealthy.
Then you have to figure out who you would have been if you had been allowed to, and find the means of becoming that person. Each reaction that you have to an emotional stimulus has to be analysed to see if you are reacting to the present circumstances or the past. Which voice are you listening to, the one that belongs to the person standing in front of you or the one that called you a useless shit thirty years ago because you bought the wrong brand of beer?
When I hear people dismissing this type of journey with meaningless catch phrases because they don't have the guts to do the same thing, are willing to live blind and deaf to the possibility of giving voice to their true self, or because they need to hold on to having somebody else to blame for their troubles, it makes me appreciate those people who attempt it even more.
It's not living in the past to strive to overcome it's effects on your present; not waiting for time to heal your wounds takes a lot more strength than simply sitting back and being a martyr; and what else could you call reclaiming your if not getting on with it? Perhaps that's the problem, those who say those types of things need to understand what they are talking about. Or it is that too much to ask?