You can’t change the past.
But you can do the next best thing.
You can change your perception of the past and so transform it.
When we had grown to adulthood, (or near to it), my brothers and sisters would sit and tell each other the stories of our childhood. It was the ones that were terrible that we laughed at the hardest. Not because they were really funny in any way. It was the WAY we told those stories to each other, turning the tragic into the comedic, exaggerating every scene, finding the ludicrous in the sorrow.
And we’d roar with laughter, tears rolling from our eyes.
I didn’t know it then, but we were engaged in a special kind of magic.
See, the way our memories work in the brain isn’t like a file system where you open up the folder, take a look, and then replace it.
What you do is call up the scene and sort of watch it again. As you do so, your present experience of the memory overwrites it and as it gets stored again, the original memory is gone. What remains is the memory of your memory.
It’s an entirely different thing!
So when we were laughing through the trauma, my siblings and I were re-writing that trauma and so the memories that remained were comedic, laced with love and joy. Those memories became powerful learning experiences for us and through our shared laughter we began the road to healing.
A lot of people will drag out a sadness, a slight, an anger, abuse or injustice and dwell on it. They’ll wrap themselves in it. They will find their identity in the pain. They find their worldview in the rage or sorrow.
But if given the choice, I think most people would choose joy if they could.
Now, childhood trauma can affect a person in major physiological ways. That’s real. Some horrors are so great you can’t just laugh them away, not really.
But you can love the child. You can nurture and protect the child. You can gently help the child grow out of that place. It will take time. It will take support. It will take falling back and starting again.
But it can be done.
We are not our memories.
We are our perception of our memories.
Choose how you are going to interpret your life, what light you are going to shine on the past, and you will determine the direction of your future.
Make it bright…
Words&Art: Aaron Paquette
Thanks to MJS, who wrote, “About the magic of transforming past trauma.”