29 Sept 2022

COLUMN: Memories can affect us now, long after the situation that created them has passed!

In this week's Nationalist

Tipperary Tipperary Tipperary

File photo

In his book The Alchemist, Paolo Coelho says that each of us has in life, from the first moment until the last, a guideline, an ideal way of living that will bring us to the end of this life in the best way for our soul.

I’ve come to realise that though the line is straight, life is somewhat more meandering.

There are no straight lines in nature or anywhere in the universe. Everyone and everything exists as harmonics, as a vibrating wave that travels this thing called life and it’s up to us how we tune that wave.

Sometimes we’ll push too hard, other times not hard enough, but if we are aware of the line we can learn to fix our tuning, day by day, thought by thought and emotion by emotion.

The body can’t tell the difference between an imagined thought and an event. If we think about something often enough, it will become our reality.

That’s how we tune the string and create our reality. Certainly, other strings compete with ours, other people’s thoughts, actions and emotions press against ours but ultimately we still hear our note, still feel the rightness of the guideline and at times we can surpass it.

That’s the beauty of vibration, for every trough in a wave there is a crest and that crest is as essential to our development as every trough is to our education.

Every single crest and trough flows along the guideline from A to Z. We have the choice to tune ourselves better and better until the fluctuation in the wave becomes minimal and we flow along it, experiencing life but not subject to its variations.

Human life exists though, in learning to flirt with the line, to dance in the space between the guideline and the wave and we can’t experience the highs without lows to measure them against.

We come to learn, as the stoics did, that every condition is temporary.

Every good time will be replaced with bad times and vice versa until life’s end. When we have a good time we take care not to become so enraptured that we forget to see the fall that will inevitably come and when we are at the depths of that fall we remember that it can’t last either.

We can, of course, live as close to the line as possible but that is to forget to play. To spare myself the lows I forego the highs.

To avoid the agonies of life I can choose to deny myself the ecstasies and that's the paradox in which Buddhism and stoicism exist.

Finding the middle way where there is no attachment to either the high or the lows allows one to live a harmonious life, though one perhaps lacking the glorious madness of human creativity. It’s only in the juxtaposition of the wave to the line that we can do both.

We can both live in harmony with the line, living objectively and watching the game unfold while at the same time living subjectively and revelling in all life’s choices, both the good and the bad. In the end, the outcome is the same. We fade out of this life and only the frequency that was us, our soul, carries on into infinity, dancing and flirting its way through forever.

In day-to-day life this means creating a balancing act and trying to live in a way that has equal measures of straight line and vibrating wave.

Creating the balance is a monumental task because we don’t easily learn to tell ourselves the truth. We fear not being good enough, not knowing enough or having enough, but peace lies hidden in the smallest shifts in our perceptions.

A lot of learning this peace is found in reframing our past and present, our memories and experiences and in being as honest with ourselves as possible as we do.

I’ve spoken a few times about what led me to where I am now and about the events that changed my life so I'm not going to go back over ploughed ground. I’ve learned how to look at life differently, with honest clarity and to reframe the past in ways that took away the hold it had on me, letting me have more freedom to both live peacefully and to enjoy creativity.

‘How you think is who you are’, is something that follows on from learning to reframe the past. It taught me to reframe my present and my relationship with myself, to tell myself a new story that replaced the old narrative.

One of the simplest lessons here is no such thing as a good or bad memory, only how we perceive them. Obviously there are memories that are positive and those that are negative.

It’s how those memories affect us now, long after the situation that created them has passed, that’s important. The residual feelings that linger, attached to memory, those are the ones we can choose to change.

The aphorism ‘feel how you feel but don’t let it control you’ is one we can both use for feelings happening now in current experiences and to reframe old memories, retraining ourselves to see life differently, helping us let go of the negative impacts of old memories.

Feelings surrounding a negative event are ‘emergency emotions’, anger, guilt, resentment, fear, judgement.

They are supposed to fade away quickly but it's all too easy to keep them alive by replaying situations and recreating the feelings for days, months, years and eventually a lifetime. To let them go we have to retrain ourselves.

If something causes us to feel badly we can change the script by affirming that it’s in the past and no amount of replaying or reliving it will make any difference.

We can tell ourselves that those ‘emergency emotions’ are pointless because the event itself can't be undone.

This allows us to rob the memory of its painful feelings and then we can set about rebuilding life without that snag in our personalities.

By doing this work we can live as close to the guideline as possible, enjoy the wonderful crests and still be at peace during the hellish troughs because we are able to see life clearly, honestly and with Acceptance of both its ideals and its realities.

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