Forever the Victim?

Sally was a victim of child abuse growing up. Sitting in the counseling office she explained how she hated the verbal and physical abuse her mother inflicted upon her as a young child and into her early teen years. “I hate her for how she treated me,” Sally said with tears swelling in her eyes. “I could do nothing right when it came to her. I was never smart enough; never pretty enough; never clean enough. It was always something. Always something! 
“But the worst part is I can’t forget it,” she continued. “Here I am 20 years later and I still have nightmares about her standing over me hitting me with a wooden spoon or whipping me with an extension cord. I am nervous all the time like I am expecting it to happen again at any moment.”
Sally is a victim of “bad memory flow”. That is when past traumatic events repeat over and over into our minds like an endless loop. These are events that we can’t put behind us because our brains have a difficult time rationalizing them. There is no closure or relief from the emotional pain that has been imprinted in our psyche. In turn, leads to endless anxiety, stress and acting out in destructive behaviors. What these troubling thoughts serve to do is to keep us as victims.
Whether the bad memories are the result of your own sinful past or the from trauma caused by others, there is no need for them to continue to create havoc and turmoil in our lives.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Ephesians 4:31
God wants to take any “bad memory flow” and transform it into something positive and meaningful that results in our spiritual and emotional growth. The problem is most people try to run away from the painful events of the past. They learn to repress memories, which end up leaking out in unhealthy behaviors. Or they turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol, drugs, sex, or shopping to numb the pain. None of these are productive solutions to resolving past trauma.
While our past may influence our current thinking – our thoughts, feelings and behaviors do not need to be held captive to previous traumas. Sometimes when I bring up the idea of exploring the past with clients they will balk at the idea saying they don’t want to go back and deal with the trauma. They also often ask why is it necessary to bring up past wounds.
It’s important because in some incidents memories may not accurately reflect the actual events per se but instead be an individual’s re-interpretation of the events. It is through these re-interpretations that people create erroneous thoughts and ideas regarding what happened — especially in placing the blame with themselves when it may actually belong on the shoulders of others.
Stirring up memories of the past also provides the opportunity to deal with shame that had been instilled in us. Shame is the most toxic and destructive of all emotions and can prevent us from moving on with our lives. If we do not remove shame it can paralyze us and negatively impact all aspects of our lives. Shame is one of the devil’s most effective tools designed to keep us “stuck”.
I personally experienced this myself recently as I was reading a book in which thoughts and feelings started to emerge about my childhood and being raised by an abusive step-father. This is an issue that I thought I had handled and put away forever. But it came back strong and caused me emotional distress. This incident made it obvious to me that I still have some unfinished business that I need to work on.
What about you? Do you still have unfinished business that may be causing distress in your life — either consciously or unconsciously? Isn’t it time to put your bad memory flow to rest?

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