Today I would like to respond to comments made earlier this month on the ‘home’ page here. My first impulse was being saddened by the confusion and despair readers felt by some of my latest post. However, it didn’t take long for me to get excited. Every time someone presents a challenge it gives me – and I suppose everyone – the opportunity to widen our understanding and deepen our insight. So I am very grateful for people to take the time and formulate their opinion and point out that what they are reading is not gelling for them.
It’s a tricky topic, the topic of “it’s just thought”, isn’t it? It’s hard to get one’s head around the fact that the world we experience is rather more a hologram created by our own thinking then a representation of what’s really OUT THERE. Especially when we end up with a badly bruised body or mind by our encounters with “out there”, be it objects or people’s’ actions. That’s however how it is – it’s a biological reality that we can’t grasp what’s out there without processing and interpreting it through our mental filters (history, beliefs, values etc.), through what’s ‘IN HERE’. It doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong or something bad. Experiencing your personal hologram as real is doing exactly what mother nature designed you to do: thinking that your thoughts are real. Everybody operates like that – nobody gets spared!
And don’t think you can outsmart nature. Knowing that your thoughts are not real doesn’t mean that in the heat of the moment you don’t end up thinking your thoughts are real. I’ve never met anybody who catches him/herself all the time and realises the elusiveness of thought. I believe most of the time it even doesn’t matter. Many of our thoughts are of no consequence (I think). “I don’t like coffee with milk”, “I wish I could go skiing in Switzerland”, “I need a rest” … and thousands of thoughts like that have little impact on my state of mind. I don’t tell myself “it’s just thought, it’s not real”. No, I have my coffee without milk. When I start feeling bad, upset, depressed, or anxious, when my state of mind deteriorates, that’s when I would like to be able to check out my thinking. I know, the more I am conscious of it, the better I am becoming in breaking the habit of taking my thoughts for real.
How does that now relate to discounting the past? I think (here we go again – now I am showing you my current hologram!) it has nothing to do with it. The past is the past! What happened has happened. There is no discounting. When bad things like abuse or neglect happen to a child, of course it is affected. The physical bruise from an assault quickly heals – nature and the healing capacity of the body takes care of that. What’s longer lasting is the ‘mental injury’ the child receives through its meaning making processes. We know the child’s brain is not wired fully until early adolescents. It can’t put things into perspective. When dad gives the child a hiding it can’t think “It’s not about me, he got fired from his job today and he hasn’t got good coping skills to deal with his distress”. No, the child thinks “I must be bad for daddy to be so angry with me”. I’ve written about this dynamic a few years ago.
Please, don’t give the child from ‘back then’ or the inner childpart now a hard time for making sense of the abuse the only way it could possibly do. There was no other conclusion possible without the guidance of a caring, understanding adult who could explain the situation in a way the child would understand and affirm this understanding with providing love and care. Like any other human being, the child can not but take its thoughts for real. Detachment from our thinking, something that’s very difficult for adults, is almost impossible for children. The life for the child becomes a predictable path of low mood, low self-worth, and self-fulfilling prophecies… until you STOP.
You don’t honour the past by revisiting it over and over again. All you do is re-breaking a broken leg, preventing the healing process and keeping the pain alive. But that’s not your fault! Most therapists still believe you have to ‘go back and release the suppressed thoughts/feelings’ – an outdated concept that originated in the Freudian time (1856-1939) of steam engines and hydraulics. Today we know from PTSD research that when the traumatic event is left alone, the post traumatic symptoms dissipate quickly due to the self-healing capacity of the mind (equivalent to the healing capacity of the body).
It’s important to understand what happened and how it impacted on the self-concept of the child so that you can now turn to it with love and care, take it metaphorically into your arms and hold it with love, and tell it that IT’S OVER NOW! A frightened child part that has been reliving – and thereby concretising – the abuse in flashbacks and therapy for years may need love and time to fully understand that it is safe now. But don’t underestimate the child! If you are predictable and consistent in your thoughts the child will surprise you with its capacity to move towards wellness.
You are not discounting the past by telling yourself: IT’S OVER! If you are hurting today your thoughts are revisiting the abuse. It signals to you that you need to tell yourself and all other parts of you that it’s over. Today you feel the way you feel because your memory – and the associated feelings about it – have been brought to life via you thinking about it. It signals to you that the task ahead is the task of letting it go! Take this opportunity to turn to your inner world with love, respect, and care and marvel at the wisdom of the human mind.