When we look back across our lives it’s easy to remember the hard times. The times when life was a struggle. When we barely made it through the first obstacle while life threw us countless more. The periods of time when we simply didn’t have it together, no matter how hard we tried.
As evolving beings, It’s natural to compare ourselves from past to present. To refer to ourselves as the ‘old’ and ‘new’ me as if they are two different people, unrecognisable to one another. When we remember the hard times it’s normal to experience it in our bodies. To feel a rise of tension, a shiver or repulsion. To re-experience in a way, what we felt like during that time. The un-ease, the uncertainty and hardship.
The self-critical mind may swing into gear, reaffirming just how hard it was. That life was unfair to us, that we weren’t good enough. That we could have navigated it better. That precious time was stolen from us. That this wasn’t the real us. That we’re so glad that period of our life is over and we never want it to happen again.
And it makes sense. Our bodies and minds are trying to prevent us from going through the same suffering again. They’re protecting us.
But why do we remember these so vividly? And are we missing something?
Our memory is biased towards highly emotive, negative experiences. We remember them so strongly as a means of learning. In its purest form it’s adaptive; how would we learn if we didn’t remember?
However, this memory bias impairs our ability to recall our experiences clearly. It makes us selective, emphasising some parts and suppressing others, even altering the content of memories. In fact, we are often so clouded in the painful experiences, that an important part of our narrative fades into the background.
To be clear I do not discount the pain and suffering of what you’ve been through. It was hard. You didn’t deserve it. I would never wish it upon anyone. But I ask, can you look back and see the resilience?
Can you look back and see the strength you had to keep going. To move forward in the absence of hope. The times you put on a good face for a job, for loved ones, when your internal world was in disarray. When you stayed in environments which pained you, because you knew you had no other choice. The times when mundane tasks felt like impossible challenges, yet you got them done. When you made it out of bed. Outside the house. To coffee with a friend. To dinner. The shops. To school or work. When you showed up for yourself in whatever way you could. When you didn’t know how, when or if it would work out but you kept going.
Life isn’t easy.
It’s predictably unpredictable, a beautiful mess. But we are strong and so adaptive. Our resilience shouldn’t get left behind in our memory. It equips us to keep moving forward, to grow, to flourish. Remember what YOU have gotten yourself through. See your beauty in the darkness.