In this time of sun's turning and the New Year, I wonder if you are thinking like me of the possibility of change? Can we repair the wounds and mistakes of our past into a more hopeful future? Can we really change behavior and thought patterns? I really think that we can. Recent brain science research shows that growing as well as aging brains are capable of major adjustments. We can continually grow in Social Intelligence, which means getting our “high road” cognition to talk to our “low road” emotional primal responses. We can gain awareness of our feelings and how they are triggered not just by stimuli, but also by thoughts and stories from our past. We can then free ourselves from pain, shame, and guilt of the past by bringing up the memory and “restoring” them back in the brain with a different story that is based on the inherent worth and beauty in each of us, and not of blame on ourselves and on others.
Here’s an example of how this might work.
Parent: When I see you sitting around not doing your homework I get so angry.
Child: What are you angry about?
Parent: Well, I really need for you to do well at school so you will have a good life and be able to take care of yourself.
Child: Mom, I’m passing and doing okay, you know that. Is there something more going on? Something from your past?
Parent: Well, I didn’t do well in school and my parents were so disappointed in me. They yelled at me a lot and thought I was lazy. I guess I was.
Child: I’m guessing you had a lot of other things you needed to do at that time, that were more exciting or more important than school work. Is that right?
Parent: Well, I was working a job to get a car that I really wanted and I spent more time at the job and fixing up the car than at homework.
Child: But Mom, you are so good with cars. In fact, you’re the best mechanic in town and that’s how you support our family. I’m guessing working on that car in high school was what you loved to do.
Parent: I sure did and I still do. So I guess I wasn’t lazy, I just made different choices at that time. But boy, I sure paid for it. Getting an automechanic’s license at the community college was so hard. I almost didn’t graduate.
Child: So you regret how hard it was for you to get to where you are today, and I guess you’d like for me to have it easier.
Parent: I sure would. I sure would. Hey, I’m not so angry any more. I guess you are just making different choices right now, like I did.
Child: Yes I am, but I’d really like to help ease your worry for me. Would you be willing to help me out with my algebra homework?
Parent: I can sure try, and after that, why don’t we go work on your car for a while?
This may seem like an idyllic conversation in many ways, however, the possibility over time of having this kind of conversation exists for each and every one of us. We can reduce our emotional response to triggers from the past and come to the present moment fully appreciative of what is going on in us, in others, and in this awesome, wondrous world around us. In this way we can ease the burden of our stories from the past, let go of judgment, and open up a path to the creative possibilities around us in every moment. We’ve all been lost in our lives, and with the very next thought or word, peace and joy can find us. May this be so for you in this season of celebration, change from dark to light, and the New Year.