In this month of July we think about freedom. If you’ve ever felt trapped by bad memories freedom takes on additional meaning. Painful memories can rob us of our personal freedom. They can make us feel like our lives are frozen in time. Our sense of self-worth grows icy cold. David writes to God in a psalm, “Out of my distress I called on the Lord, the Lord answered me and set me free”. David inspires me to reclaim my freedom by transforming painful past experiences into hopeful prayers and plans for the future. Here’s how:
I’ve watched the Disney movie “Frozen” with my nieces over and over. Elsa taught the world to sing, “Let it go! Let it go!” But her song advised us to “turn away and slam the door…” I wish that helped! The belief that we can make our bad memories disappear by slamming the door on them is a fairy tale. Out of sight is not the same thing as being out of pain. Slamming the door on bad memories can leave us numb or humiliated. And then something happens that reopens the door and, wow, we have to face and feel the sting all over again. So how do we transform the memories of painful experiences into something not just tolerable but life-affirming?
The pain from our memories will stay with us until it has taught us what we need to learn. So rather than pushing them away I’m suggesting the opposite: lean into them just long enough to discover their lesson.
I promise you, the lesson isn’t going to be that you’re alone or a failure. It’s probably going to be about your worth and future success.
I had a lot of painful memories and my shame, anger, and pride kept me from facing them – making their lessons hard to absorb. But the relief of emotional freedom is harder to resist.
I have an illustration that will help you transform your bad memories into a lesson easier to absorb. Imagine this: imagine that your painful memory is a frozen ice cube. At first it feels hard and cold with sharp edges that cut or burn you – like your painful icy memory. Your first instinct is to quickly drop it and try to forget it. But this doesn’t make the ice disappear – it just lays on the floor like an accident waiting to trip you up.
Now imagine holding a piece of ice but this time wrap your fingers around it. Feel it melt as it warms through your touch. Now it’s easier to absorb.
What would warm up your painful memories? Instead of holding on to them with icy resentment, anger, or shame, wrap them in acceptance, compassion, and renewed good intentions. These are the qualities that melt cold-hearted memories into a future you can face and embrace.
Sometimes a memory will pop up again and I feel its pain just like I was right back in that place and time. But now I know that I (and you) can melt them back into what can heal and reveal the best life we are created to live.