Thursday, December 30, 2010

When Trying to Forget is not a Good Idea

The weekly column dealing with questions from readers of the Peace Weekly discusses the common problem of emotional scars that are difficult to heal. This week the discussion focused on the problem that could result when losing a girl friend. The father of the troubled youth wrote to the priest-columnist to ask for his help. His son can't sleep, drinks a lot and says he wants to enter a monastery.

We are told that even when we suffer from loss of memory as we grow older, we don't forget the emotional scars and sorrows we've experienced in our life. When we try to forget these traumas from the past and can't, it  becomes a problem both in our daily living and in our spiritual life. Learning to forget these past traumas is an important skill to have if we are to live a healthy life.

A young woman came to a priest telling him she can't forget her boy friend who had died. She wanted the priest to recommend a convent. The priest selected a very strict community, thinking that this would help her forget. However, within a year the young woman left the convent and told the priest that as time passed, the thoughts of the boyfriend became even more vivid, and she had to leave.

This time the priest recommended a very lax community where the religious did little praying and a lot of talking. Even though the young woman again did not last a year, this time she came to the priest with a beaming smile, thanking him.  "The religious in the  community asked me so many questions about my boyfriend," she said, "it made me sick and tired, and I forgot about  him."

The priest goes on to say that learning to forget is not the same as trying to forget; when we try to forget we are creating stress for ourselves. We are trying to repress, and this is bringing  the issue more to our attention, and making an imprint on our brains. He cites a Japanese psychologist who tells us that the way to forget is not to try to forget but to do everything possible  to remember, to bring it all to mind. If we have lost out in love, cry like you have never cried before.  If you  have failed at anything, feel the pain and do it daily.

Why? He believes that we all have a forgetting curve within us. In 3 months, you will come to a point when you will forget. There is within us a self-cleansing mechanism that will take over. We have all heard of women who continually cried for their dead husbands, and very abruptly married. Men have more difficulty with this approach because they do not talk as freely as women about emotional issues. Men keep it inside, and it takes more time for the process to take over.

It's good to remember that our emotions are sporadic not permanent; they are fickle and we get tired of them. We don't  want to deny this fact but work with it. When faced with something that we can't forget and the pain of the memory keeps bothering us, don't make the effort to forget but rather bring the troubling memory to mind. Think about it and tell others about it. If this is done for a period of six months you will find peace.