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difficult painful memories

Difficult, Painful Memories Can Make a Memoir More Psychologically Astute.

We all arrive at adulthood with some difficult painful memories. In this post, I offer you procedures for dealing with and healing those memories.

First of all, writing about painful memories should not be an occasion to re-traumatize yourself. Stop for the moment if you feel overcome, but if you feel ready to write about a painful time, begin by writing all the details of the memory. Details need not be significant. If there was a cup of coffee on the table, mention it. You will find that little details help bring your memory back.

Yes, difficult, painful memories are disturbing.

Of course, as you write about painful memories, there will be sorrow and tears and anger. Allow yourself to experience your feelings in your body. Again, writing a memoir is not an occasion to re-traumatize yourself. Check to see if you are feeling in control as you doing this exercise. If not, wait for a later time. You can also seek counseling help. Often, simply working with a writing coach to have another person’s point of view can help you to assimilate your feelings. Most people do not need more help than their writing will provide.

Larger contexts

Write the larger context of the difficult, painful memory. This includes how you felt, how you think someone else felt, and why you think they chose to act as they did. This larger context gives you a more accurate understanding of what was happening at this time in your life. This is not to excuse or to overlook another person’s role in what happened but it can help you to understand that, while the memory remains painful, it was perhaps not intended to be painful by the person you consider to be the perpetrator.

Alternate scenarios for a difficult, painful memory

If the larger-context exercise does not help you to gain insight into your pain, write alternate scenarios. For instance, imagine someone talking to you about their state of mind at the time you are experiencing as painful. In what way also, can you now understand some context for the person or persons responsible for generating this painful memory, a context that might actually exculpate him or her? Is it possible that this person really might not bear any responsibility?

In what way do you realize today that your perception of what was happening may not have been correct (this does not obviate the pain that you felt, but it is an adult perspective. It can help you to be more realistic about what happened.)

More possibilities for dealing with difficult, painful memories

When the pain continues in spite of your writing, there are several more possibilities that I can suggest for you:

You could write a letter to the child within who experienced the pain in the past. You might ask why the pain is continuing. What would happen to the child within if he arrived at forgiving the perpetrator? Sometimes we hold onto something because it has become part of our identity and forgiving or moving on brings on the fear of losing part of our identity.

As long as the pain has you in its grip, you are condemned to losing some part of your life that cannot be expressed because of the pain.

Pain is individual. Every writer carries his or her pain in a personal way and each individual will have to work something out to heal from pain.

Why memoir writing works

The objectification that occurs in memoir writing can externalize pain and leave it on a page of your story rather than within you. I have had so many people tell me that memoir writing brings with it the benefits of therapy, and it costs less, and in the end, you have a book!

In conclusion

And remember: “inch by inch, it’s a cinch; yard by yard it’s hard.”

Good luck writing your stories!

If you would like to see this post as a video, click here.

Below is an e-course I have curated just for you.

Memoir Writing is Healing

Ouch! Writing Painful Memories

Writing Difficult Truth 

Negative Emotions in Your Memoir 

Today’s video: A more psychologically astute memoir: writing painful memories can help you go deeper.

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