Here’s one way to think about the hurts and wounds in your life, and how to address them.
Gravity is a force we don’t understand. How can two objects exert an influence on each other at a great distance? There doesn’t appear to be any kind of invisible string connecting them! Einstein came up with an interesting theory, however. He proposed that space and time were warped – that rather than being spread evenly in all directions, there were dips and undulations. The best way to think about this is to imagine a cloth. If you place, say, two oranges on a table cloth they will just stay where you placed them. However if you stretch the cloth out and allow the first orange placed to make a dip in the middle, then the next orange will inevitably fall towards the first one. Here’s a drawing from wikipedia, to explain Einstein’s theory, which shows what I mean –
I think life is a bit like this too.
Events and experiences make an impression on us. Hurtful or painful ones leave dents in our psyche (or our bodies!) Death of a loved one is like this. It hits us, dents us, leaves a wound, changes our life forever. But, more than just a dent, this wound, or lesion, seems to have the power to draw life towards it. We find our minds constantly returning to it. The landscape of our life has changed. Things don’t look the same any more.
If we were like cars, we’d pop along to the body shop and have a panel beater knock the ding out making the surface nice and smooth again. He’d remove the dent for us. But we’re not like cars and there aren’t any panel beaters to take away a death.
One approach to deal with this is to try to remove the effects of the impact – drugs try to do this – antidepressants, sedatives to reduce anxiety or agitation, or to induce sleep for example. However, this approach doesn’t change the landscape. It doesn’t remove either the dent or its impact.
Another approach is the talking one. People are encouraged in counselling or psychotherapy to talk about the event or the experience and to in the process to try and change its impact on their present life. The difficulty inherent in this approach is that it can reinforce the strength of the dent. By focusing attention and energy on it, it can become all-consuming, increasing it’s pull and therefore its effect.
I think there’s another way.
Make more dents!
It’s not only negative experiences which make an impact. Positive ones can do it too. This is the approach used in positive psychology for example. By actively engaging in positive experiences we take an active role in fashioning the landscape of our lives. This is very different from the passive approach which can be utterly disempowering.
I know that when the impact of a negative event is large it’s effects are strong and long lasting, and the dent can be so deep it can be very difficult to climb out of it’s powerful influence. It acts like a black hole and draws everything to it. In such circumstances a combination of approaches might be needed covering all three of the main strategies I’ve written about above. There aren’t any right or wrong approaches here, but having a model to work with can help you understand what’s happening and find a way to change life when you feel totally trapped.
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