When have you felt like this before?

  Dr. Patrick J. DiVietri Ph.D. CPC, OCDS

People have defenses, which protect them from bad memories.  It is not a good idea to barge into a person’s psyche and dispel their defenses and leave them vulnerable if a better means of coping is not in place.[1]  One must proceed in a respective manner consistent with the way the Holy Spirit operates.  That is, to respect the disposition of the individual.  The reminiscence must take place in a natural way.  Otherwise harm can come to the individual.  This is one of the problems with the approach of psycho analysis and other practices which bypass natural reminiscence.

A simple method of doing this is to ask the question, “When have you felt like this before? Or “What does this remind you of?”  This allows the person to consider the present feeling and allow the memory to come into view.

The memory which causes the feeling is already in the imagination.  However, it is not in that part of the imagination which appears “visual” to us.  The imagination may be likened to a computer screen where the file has only so much data that is visible and the rest needs to be “scrolled” down in order to see.  However, the appetites can read the abstract form of the data that is in the imagination and if it contains the object of the appetite, the passions moves.

It is common for people to recognize the associations between the present and the past.  How many times has a marital squabble included a, “you remind me of my mother?”  So the simple questions about memory, “What does this remind you of?  When have you felt like this before?” allow someone to “scroll” down in there imagination.

For example, Mary and John have arguments because Mary feels that John criticizes her and thinks that she is an idiot.  John states that he has no such feelings or thoughts about Mary but rather has the highest respect for her education and intelligence.  When Mary was asked, “When have you ever felt like this before?” she answered that her family was very well educated and considered her to be the weak link.  Despite her high intelligence scores and academic prowess she was made to feel that her opinions were of little value because her family would always contradict her and dismiss her ideas.  Thus when John pointed out disagreements with anything that Mary would say, it played upon that previous disposition.  The counsel was:

  1. Mary and John needed to recognize that the emotion was related to the old wound.  It helped for Mary to stop and consider what her feelings reminded her of.
  2. Mary could then talk to John about how these memories affected her.
  3. John would naturally change somewhat when he began to understand how these hurtful memories magnified or even distorted the present experiences.
  4. His compassion for Mary came to the fore.
  5. Mary was to forgive the family
  6. Mary needed to try to understand that John’s intentions and actions were different than her families.
  7. John was to be understanding, loving and patient
  8. John was to be sensitive when discussing issues with Mary so that he expressed himself with the awareness that she could feel the effects of the old memories.  This was very important for Mary’s sake.
  9. Healing immediately began because Mary was able to separate the past experience from the present.  She could see that she was freed from the past.
  10. She could also see the kind understanding and patience of her husband and this created to new memory.
  11. The psychological wound of the memory which contained the injustice was altered by the forgiveness.
  12. Repetitions would be required for the memories to dissipate into insignificance.  Something that happens repeatedly over time as to cause psychological wounds does not easily change in the moment of insight.  Time, patience and love are called for.

[1] An example of this disregard took place in relation to an operation in California during the 70’s.  During the weekend encounter the individuals were confronted in such a way as to break down many of their defenses.  They felt the euphoria of the psychological purging and outpouring gave credibility to the experience.  However, a high rate of mental breakdowns took place in subsequent months for those who attended the weekend.

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