I caught myself doing it again.
There I was in front of the opened fridge, searching for peace.
It had been the kind of long, frustrating day no commute could erase. Maybe it was the two patients I’d seen whose troubling stories broke my heart. Maybe their struggles with depression and emotional trauma had hit a little too close to home. Now, an unstoppable string of painful memories threaded its way through my mind.
“I thought I dealt with this already. Why am I rehashing this again?” I sighed and closed the fridge.
Nothing in there would fix this ache in my heart. And it certainly wouldn’t stop the rerun of disturbing images through my mind. I’d have to deal another way. Without snapping at people. Without rolling my eyes and sighing at them. Without withdrawing or stuffing my face.
It’s crazy, isn’t it, how things that happened decades ago can trigger negative behavior in the present. Even stuff we’ve dealt with. Forgiven. Accepted and learned from. Or thought we had.
Many coaches say that forgiveness (and, I’d add, dealing with trauma) is like peeling an onion: it has a lot of layers, and each one makes you cry. I’ve certainly found this to be true as I worked through each painful layer of my past.
The weird thing was that I couldn’t force it. I couldn’t hurry up and heal, or race to the next level. Each layer of healing seemed to come when I was ready, and it would always surprise me when it came.
Like this week. I never saw it coming. But suddenly something like a patient’s suffering can stir up a mess of memories I didn’t realize I still needed healing from.
When that happens, my behavior can get weird. I can suddenly find myself in the fridge, or any other number of bad habits I once had, to help me deal with the pain. Overeating (some kind of carb with peanut butter and jam), staring at TV, grumping at my family, and ignoring my friends.
Has that ever happened to you? Has something triggered old painful memories and sent you headlong back into rotten old habits you thought you’d kicked?
It’s not a bad thing.
I mean, we definitely need to find a way to avoid those negative behaviours. But here’s the thing. Once we become aware of what is triggering our behaviour – once we realize the connection between our past experiences and our current behaviour – we can short-circuit the effects of those old wounds.
We don’t have to continue to be hurt by our past.
We don’t have to let past pain hurt our present.
Practically, what this looks like for me (once I recognize what’s triggering my behaviour) is to close that fridge door and walk in the opposite direction of that loaf of bread. I’ll try to find a quiet place to sit down and let the memories come. I will, once again, (again!!) decide to forgive and let it go, just as I had before. Then I’ll fix my mind back on the present – on my current goals – and choose a behaviour that fits with that.
Instead of going to the fridge to feed my feelings, I resolutely choose to engage with my daughter and grandson. We’ll play a game, talk, go outside for a walk, read a book or sit and play with toys – whatever it takes to engage in healthy activities.
We can break free from our past, from hurt. But it takes some self-awareness and the willingness to choose a new path, one scary, difficult layer at a time.
How to you shake free from past hurts when they come knocking?
Please comment on this post. I would love to hear your ideas!
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