We recently wrote, “What They Can Never Take Away From Us” which was a very difficult thing for us to write about. We were robbed and some of our most valuable possessions were taken from us. Forever gone. So, we decided to tell our story about what happened. At one point, someone said something like, “Yeah, but why would you force yourself to relive all of that when you can just forget it?”
I thought, “Forget it? Really?” Are we, as humans, ever able to willingly just forget anything?
Try this little experiment with me. Bite your toungue really hard. Try to bite hard enough to make your tongue bleed. Can’t do it? How about a different idea. Hit your hand with a hammer. Hit it hard enough to make you wince, but try not to break any bones. Whichever one of these things you just did, now I want you to forget it. You see, we cannot truly forget. Our brains are not wired to allow us to forget on demand. (Disclaimer: I don’t really want you to harm yourself. I am merely making a point here!)
So, when someone says to “forget it” or “fuhgeddaboudit,” what they truly mean is, “try not to dwell on this thing that is so difficult for you.” And since we can’t truly forget, I intend to give you some ways to process the things in your life so that you won’t need to dwell on them.
When we talk about processing situations, memories, disappointments, etc., we are talking about how to move something in your brain from one part of the brain to another. This sounds strange to most of us because we don’t usually think of working through something in this way, but by explaining how all of this works in our brains, I hope to encourage you toward better mental and emotional health.
Processing a stressful situation at home or work means moving it from the right parietal (where stress usualy gets stuck) to the forward parts of the brain, where processing gets completed.
Bruno Bettelheim was an Austrian psychoanalyst who did much of his work in this area. Bettelheim said, “What cannot be talked about cannot be put to rest.” This is because when we can identify an issue and talk about it, the talking is the processing that gets the issue unstuck and moves it to the forward parts of our brains where processing is completed.
This is why counseling with a professional works because a good counselor can get you to talk about things. This is also why talking to a spouse or a trusted friend makes us feel better. And, this is why not talking about an issue is unhealthy, will make you feel awful, and may eventlually kill you. Because you cannot just forget about it!
Try this kind of processing out. Take a walk with a friend and do your best to talk through a difficult or stressful situation. You may need to do this several times depending on the issue at hand and how hard this kind of thing is for you. You could also write about it like Tami and I do here on the TandemMarriage.com blog. That can work just as well. And here’s the test:
When you can recall a difficult or stressful time without having to relive it (with all of it’s pain), you know that you have processed it well and come out the other side.
Processing traumatic and difficult events is not easy, but so necessary if you want to be able to move on. Since you cannot forget, you may as well learn to process issues in a healthy way. And don’t be afraid to press yourself to do this even if it seems hard at first. Doing what’s right is rarely what’s easy and digging up our old junk to process it is never easy, but it’s the only way to put it to rest.
If you have any comments or questions about this post, we would love to hear from you in the comments below.
By Brad & Tami Miller. Contact us at brad@TandemMarriage.com. Copyright © 2017