It is a given that our pasts shape us, and that goes even more so for survivors of abuse. The physical, physiological and emotional effects of adverse childhood experiences are many. But more than that the specific set of circumstances we experienced, has molded us into a shape that does not suit us. Now that we are moving past this, we need to learn how to be our own shape, rather than our mold.
Getting to know yourself is an exciting prospect. The path is not always easy, but it really is a journey worth taking. Even those of us who have come into our own and have straightened out our feathers, can sometimes be surprised as the past creeps up on us.
Liking the Things They Like
One way in which the past can come calling, is in the things we like. Music can be a powerful memory trigger, as can certain foods, smells and places. Sometimes we actually like these memory triggers, but not so much the memories attached to them.
“The thing that has been difficult for me is finding out that the things I enjoyed in common with my mother are sometimes things I really do like. For example, Simon and Garfunkel. It was my mom who introduced their music to me. Now it annoys me because it reminds me of her. At the same time, I still like the music” explains F.
It can be hard to find a balance between the things that trigger our memories and the things we enjoy. Having an appreciation for the music from our pasts is such a normal thing. At the same time, we often have such bad memories of our past, that these are unwanted memories and connections. Sometimes these types of memories can be triggered from seemingly nowhere. F decided this holiday season to use gift bags rather than wrapping her presents, as she was a bit busy. “My mother did that too. It makes me want to wrap everything even though I know it will just stress me out”.
Your Abuser is Part of Your Past
Regardless of your current relationship with an Emotional Bully, they are part of your past. That means that certain music, movies, scents and places are going to have memories of them attached. M explains that it can be the smallest thing, like the other day when she had a cup of herbal tea that tasted exactly like a cookie she used to get as a child. “I hated those when I was small. They are part of the Christmas celebration and every year my mother would get me a huge one as a present. Each year I told her I did not like this kind, and each year she conveniently forgot. It was the same with chocolate preferences. Everyone got one they liked, except me. Oh, I thought that was your favorite, was her annual excuse“.
No matter how much you may want things to be behind you, your past will sometimes creep up on you. F comments: “I just wish I could figure out how to make the things I enjoy mine, without the sad feelings attached to them”.
This really is the essence of claiming your life, and taking back your happiness.
A Changed Perspective
For F one way to cope is “refocusing it to the perspective of my own children. Dancing with them to Simon and Garfunkel and creating new memories”. Of course creating new memories and making positive connections to your favorites songs, activities and places is a great way of refocusing.
Still, it can be difficult to really shed the original feelings associated with it. Maybe the key is in accepting that there is a sad aspect to some things you do or enjoy in your life. Accepting may take the annoyance away, and therewith the sting of the memory.
Or, as M says it: “truly accepting my past, my history has been of huge importance. I have stopped being ashamed of what happened to me, and have pulled all that darkness into the light. Now memories come, but they don’t hurt me as much, they are not usually debilitating, or enough to put me off. This is part of my life. By sharing here on the forums as well as confiding in friends, I get to shed these painful memories and give them positive purpose by helping others too”.