Believe me, in some ways I wish I could forget about the abuse that happened to me as a child. I often wonder what my childhood and life would have been like had I not been abused and suffered all the trauma. Then on the other hand, I wouldn’t change a thing. It has made me the man I am today.
First it is not psychologically possible to forget the traumatic events in one’s life. There is a little almond shaped object in the middle of our brain called the Amygdala. The Amygdala is the filing cabinet of our brain. It registers emotions such as fear and anxiety. It processes memory. Here’s an example of how it works. As a teenager I was constantly being told that I was an idiot, that I would never amount to anything by my mother and stepfather. Believe me I’d just as well like to forget I had ever heard those words. The problem is, every time I would make a mistake, which was a trigger, my brain would go into the filing cabinet and pull up the “idiot” file. The Lymbic System of the brain would then engage and the broken record would start playing. It would not only remind me of what I was told as a child and teenager, it would also let me know that my actions were just proof that what I was told as a youth, was true. The feeling that comes with the memory can be as real as the times I was actually hearing the words from my mother and stepfather.
Let’s look at it from a spiritual stand point. The enemy (Satan) hates the truth. John 8:44 tells us – “….He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of all lies.” Satan can’t see into our future, but what he does know all too well is our past. As we enter into recovery or begin our walk with Christ, he is not real thrilled with us. In my case, prior to my recovery journey, I was his number one advocate. Today I am his number one adversary with the ministries I’m involved with. When I am emotionally and spiritually drained is when the enemy goes to work on me. He knows my weaknesses and goes right after them reminding me of my past sins. He also reminds me of the emotional and spiritual harm as well as the lies that were instilled in me by others. These were all traumatic experiences that kept me trapped in my victim mentality, my addictions for thirty-five plus years, which the enemy wants me to stay trapped in.
So then how do we reverse the lies that we have believed, either consciously or sub-consciously, for so many years? These lies and false beliefs have been etched into the neuro-pathways of our brain and engrained into the fiber of our being. So, one might believe that we can’t change, either our behavior or negative thought patterns. I’ve heard so many people say; It’s just the way I am and if you don’t like it, too bad.” Nothing could be further from the truth. We can change. It just takes time and action on our part. Because of the plasticity of our neuro-pathways, it is possible to change our negative thought patterns and in doing so, change our behavior. However, as I said, this will take time. For myself, I lived with these lies about myself, negative thought patterns and less than Godly behavior I displayed, for thirty-five plus years. To tell you the truth, I expected change to take place right away. Many of the people I work with expect change to take place instantly as well. However, we have years of false beliefs and behaviors to overcome.
There are two very important steps into the process of change. First it is important to stay in the word of God and read what He has to say about who you are. We are all perfect in His eye. We are the head and not the tail. We are blessed going on and blessed going out. We are loveable, loved and we are enough. For many, believing what God says about them to be true is very hard as we have had our view/understanding of God skewed by religious people and pastors who have harmed us in the name of God. Why staying in the word is important, for myself, I had been so wounded by the church, I needed much more than the words of God. I needed to see actions that matched the words of the ones that were mentoring me. I needed to have words of life spoken into me. I needed to be shown how to live with a positive attitude. I needed to be taught how not to believe the lies that were insistently being whispered in my ear and replace those lies and negative thoughts with words of affirmation and life. God blessed me with these mentors. It has made a huge difference in my life. I will also say this; I must make a choice everyday to not allow the lies and negative thoughts to control my life as well as surrounding myself with only positive and uplifting people.
So, why then do I never want to forget about all the negative and trauma that occurred in my life? I tell the people I work with that everyone that comes into our life, rather for a fleeting second, moment, hour, day, or year is a teacher. Everything that happens to you in life is a lesson. If I were to forget about my past, then I would be forgetting about the countless lessons the past and the people in my past, good or bad, have taught me. It is likely that by forgetting my past, I could fall right back into the patterns and lifestyle that caused me so much grief and pain. Furthermore, if I were to forget my past, I would not be able to help those I’m helping today. It is only through these experiences of my trauma and my healing journey that I am able to help others that have suffered in the ways a have. The difference today is my past is what I use to help others instead of hurt others and I no longer live there.
There is one more very important reason one must never forget the past. The reason lies in Deuteronomy 8:2 – “Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands.” In other words, God had to humble me and bring me to a place where all I could do was depend on him. I had finally arrived at the place where I had nothing else or no one else to count on. God had called me to a place of obedience. This obedience was and is based on remembering what the Lord has done for me while I was in the wilderness of the world.
In order to experience true happiness and freedom, we must forgive and move on. Please don’t mistake the fact that you can’t forget the past for not forgiving someone. You have been hurt, and in some cases, hurt badly. So, choose forgiveness, freedom, and happiness over not forgetting. If a memory pops up from the past, honor it, look at the lesson it taught you, love yourself, then say goodbye to it. Return to the moment and remind yourself that you are loved and safe today.