Recently I have been sharing a lot of my Buddhist lessons with you, and even when the tips are quite radical, the feedback I’ve received has been very warm and wonderful; thank you. But for the next two blogs I have a lesson to share that requires A LOT of open-mindedness. It may cause you to laugh out loud and call this ‘a joke’, loud enough that I may even hear you from my home. Heck, you may even unfriend or unfollow me out of sheer refusal to believe that this mindfulness technique could even be possible. But, I’m prepared for the backlash if it means that this advice can help even one person as much as it has helped me. I want you to be prepared that this, and my next blog, may cause dark memories to bubble up for you, but by no means do I intend to cause you pain! What I DO intend is to provide you with a way to see these memories through a different, healthier perspective.
Like I have spoken of before, all feelings are universal, therefore no one (except a sociopath) is exempt from being hurt at some point in their lives. Trauma, abandonment, heart-break, natural disasters, accidents, deaths…(the list is endless), are all sources of gut wrenching, seemingly unrecoverable events which cause us an unending cycle of torment. This torment can be so extreme that we may even turn to destructive choices, such as drugs and alcohol, to numb the pain they cause; but that numbness doesn’t last forever (trust me) and we eventually experience the pain again…and sometimes even worse.
Our lives are filled with so much agitation and angst, often because, whether we realize it or not, trauma can continue to harm us by stifling our healthy choices years after the event(s) occurred. So what can we do with these thoughts in order to live in peace? And is that even possible? No one wants to live with the resentment and anger these events cause us, and which in essence keep traumatizing us and making us very ill. So I ask you, if there was a way you could change your view of these traumatic events, would you consider trying it?
The mindfulness technique I want to share with you in this blog is called reframing. No, this doesn’t mean literally reframing the pictures in your home, but it does mean reframing the pictures in your mind. This technique blends the acceptance that 1)we create, and can therefore change, our emotions, with 2) we truly deserve to be happy no matter how much pain our past has caused us. Reframing moves us away from judging our experiences, (without losing their reality), and changing the negative energy surrounding them to positive. By putting a new view or ‘frame’ on our experiences, we change the way we see them. It involves giving yourself permission to take off the frame which other people or an event put on your memory for you, and finally choosing your own frame! It’s like a redecorating of sorts…but of your life. We can’t throw out our family trees, or turn back the hands of time to avoid a trauma (even though God knows so many of us try to), but we can choose to see our past’s through a different more peaceful perspective…and I’m going to show you how to do that.
I have had MUCH success with ‘reframing’ when it comes to my painful childhood memories. When my mom sent me away to a home for unwed mothers when I was 18 years old against my will, this experience caused me to carry anger, resentment and guilt for the next twenty years of my life! And for those entire twenty years, my only means of ‘recovery’ from this trauma was to numb the pain with alcohol, speak badly of my mother, and convince myself that I would be ok as long as I stayed mad at her to prove that I would never accept what she did to me, my daughter, her father and my siblings. HA! That would teach her right?! Wrong. Even an apology from her about ten years back didn’t change the frame attached tightly around this traumatic event in which I saw it through. Without reframing this experience, which washed my hands of my mother’s motives, self-pity would have continued to affect my ability to trust, love, and forgive I’m sure for the rest of my life.
Through the lesson of reframing, I was eventually able to see my mother’s choice to send me away differently. MY frame included truly understanding that my mom was doing the best she could at that time. It involved my acceptance that SHE was probably sick too. The lies she told became her truth, and yes they hurt me and so many other people deeply, but MY frame comprehends that I will never be able to understand what was in HER head, or why she thought her actions were just…so scrutinizing them will only prolong my pain.
Now this is where I feel that some of you may be yelling at your computer screen because you may be misinterpreting reframing as acceptance of her actions. But reframing couldn’t be any further from that! I DO NOT ACCEPT the pain and tears I witnessed my daughter experience when she didn’t hear from her dad on her birthdays, or any other holidays. I DO NOT ACCEPT the pain which removing me from my daughter’s father’s life caused him and his family. I DO NOT ACCEPT lies. Nor DO I ACCEPT manipulation. But in order for me to heal and grow in a peaceful way with this trauma inevitably always a part of my life, I DO accept giving myself permission to forgive and permission to understand that I am not my mom, and I am not her choices. THIS new frame is MUCH more beautiful! THIS new frame gives me peace! Yes, THIS new frame still allows me to see this traumatic experience as a part of my past, but more importantly, THIS new frame no longer allows it to be a detriment to my future.
Just like redecorating your home takes time and patience, so does redecorating your memories. My advice is to work on one room at a time. It will take some courage to dust off the old, ugly photos you’ve been hiding in a drawer. But when you choose to, and after your tears have washed them off, you don’t need to display them on a mantle, but putting YOUR frame around them will make them easier to display in your mind.