I had a memory that wouldn’t let me go; or maybe I just didn’t know how to let go of the memory. It doesn’t really matter which of those is true, or where the balance lies. The incident happened when I was seven years old, and it was emotionally and physically traumatic. I had used various means of healing for it (forgiveness, EFT, prayer in ceremony, and others) as an adult, but never with complete success. I’d gotten to the point where I could replay the memory without being upset, but I couldn’t free myself from the residue of it.
Then a few years ago, I participated in a conference workshop about a therapeutic technique that stimulated the thought that perhaps I could revisit and heal that incident by rewriting it. Not reframe, but recreate.
I began at the point in my experience where the emotional conflict escalated into physical punishment (I’m trying to be circumspect here, but it doesn’t take much to guess that if I was seven years old, the incident likely involved one of my parents. It did.). This used to be called corporal punishment, and it was regarded as normal discipline in many families, including mine. One of the rules in our family was that we were never hit above the waist, and that rule was observed in this incident.
I decided that in changing the script of the incident, I would behave as an adult. I would be confident in my own self, articulate, and ready to stop both the emotional and the physical violence. I decided that I would not fight back, but would stand up for myself. I also decided that my parent would respond in a mature fashion.
I started by facing my parent and saying, “Stop!” Then I said, “I’m sorry I provoked you, but it’s not acceptable for you to hit me.” My parent immediately released me and stood facing me without speaking.
From there, I allowed the conversation to proceed. I was in control—a completely different situation from the original. I was able to state my position, and my parent responded maturely. I didn’t feel that I was creating a script as much as recording the conversation.
I really did rewrite the incident. I wrote out by hand the dialogue between the two of us and what happened physically. That was important. It made it real in a way that simply imagining could not do.
The conversation ended with an apology from my parent, responding to the apology I had offered. I felt emotionally strong, at ease, and safe in a way that had been unknown to my seven year old self.
Did this change the past? If someone had a video of the incident, would it look differently now? I don’t know; what I do know is that when I think about that incident, I see first the version I created when I rewrote it.
The empowerment I felt in that moment has stayed with me. When I recreated the script and stood up for myself, and my parent responded from a place of maturity and respect, my life changed. The sense of powerlessness I had experienced the first time through was gone.
After I had done my first two such rewritings, I found that any memory I turned to could be rewritten to empower rather than victimize me.
After rewriting a few experiences, I found that reimagining an incident had the same effect, that I didn’t have to write out the new script. More recently, I have found myself responding in real time and real life in the same manner as I learned to do in rewriting. The healing has been deep.
For people who have been traumatized by abuse, there might be many experiences that could be addressed this way. The identity of “I’m a victim” that can take root in an experience such as mine (the original version) is reinforced by ongoing experience. Healing happens when you break the chain of reinforcement, or (even better) when you remove the lump to which that chain is anchored. This process is not easy to do if your programming and neural circuitry is accustomed to, or I might say trapped in, the identity of victim or feeling of helplessness.
Part of my work as a spiritual coach and healer is about helping people see a different way when they themselves cannot. Here’s my plug: if you have one or more experiences in your life that have stolen some vital and wonderful part of yourself and are ready to be healed, I invite you to contact me. This work can be done in person or online equally effectively.
August 9 2022