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Coulda-Shoulda-Woulda by Dan Cherneski, LMFT

August 23, 2016

Memories! How does that song go? “Mem’ries, Light the corners of my mind. Misty water-colored memories, of the way we were.” I totally appreciate the sentiment; however, the reality of memories seem to be a little different. I don’t much like cleaning and corners of anything are the most difficult. If left unchecked, they accumulate a lot of debris.

Same with memories. Our brains are not like computers where we open a file and find it in the same condition we left it. Memories are re-created, much like having to retype the story. And even more important, what we do with the memories have crucial consequences in the present.

Touching base with different memories (or as I call it “echoes of the past”) should enhance the present, giving color, sight and sound to a life story still in progress. However, when life is lived through a memory, enjoyment of the present is clouded and even stagnated. Pleasant memories, such as being football captain or head cheerleader are wonderful things to think back on. It’s when these memories are morphed into an idol, emotionally worshiped and not let go of, they become a major problem. The 40-year-old man still wearing his high school letter jacket which is now so small on him it can’t be buttoned, or the 40-year-old woman taking her shredded pom-poms to the board meeting is not a pretty sight. This is how the memory of one life event that you did, becomes a distortion of you are.

Just as crucial is the famous and deadly “Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda.” We’ve all fallen victim. “If I only knew then what I know now.” But you didn’t. You couldn’t. That period of time was a crucial part of your story leading to where and who you are now. If a memory convicts you of destructive patterns of behaviors, thoughts, perceptions, then praise God your eyes are opened and your future is brighter. However, condemnation by “Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda” is not from Him. It’s a destructive emotional thought frame that you’re putting around the memory that is causing pain and keeping you stagnant. The fact that you now know how you would do events of the past better should be a celebration of where you are now and not lamenting on where you once were. Celebration time!

Sometimes reframing takes hard work, prayer, and counseling. But it begins the celebration of the present and how to use your memories of the past as a touchstone, not a permanent residence. Remember, what we are doing right now will be memory tomorrow. Make it glorious!

 

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