Many of us dread looking back at difficult events from our past that wounded us emotionally. Some of us are so eager to avoid revisiting them that we strike out at anything anyone does in the present or any current situation resembling in any way, real or imagined, the past occurrences we are striving to forget. Others of us shove them down into one of our big toes and try to ignore them. Maybe we use substances. Maybe we eat an unhealthy amount of sweets or chips. Maybe we clean our homes as if they were operating rooms. It doesn’t matter what our muffler of choice may be.
Here’s the problem — we must revisit painful memories to process them, and we must process them to learn from them. It’s a scary thing to do. We tell ourselves consciously or subconsciously that revisiting what almost destroyed us will hurt us just as much or more now as it did before. But we are not the same person who experienced those things. We can look back and have compassion for our former selves. We can recognize that we did not fail. We can understand that even if we felt we deserved what happened to us, we did not.
We can begin to believe what happened to us is not the story of how our lives will always be but only of how our lives once were. We can treat our younger selves with tenderness. We can realize there was much that we didn’t know then. We can understand that we did our best based on the little we did know and the many things we misinterpreted due to our inexperience or fears.
It will still be frightening to revisit these dark places. It will also remind us that we are not our fears but the person who is feeling those fears.