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Healing the Past in the Present

Healing the Past in the Present

Years ago I memorized the 50 principles from A Course in Miracles. One that has always stayed with me is how miracles heal the past in the present and thus release the future.  Many of us don’t recognize how we hold our future hostage to the pain of our past.  We don’t understand that healing the past happens in the here and now.  In part this is because it is easy to turn the past into a static truth, a story we have re-told enough times that its reality is so deeply etched into who we have become that re-thinking our historic relationships becomes increasingly remote as we age.

Something startling, or tragic, is usually the impetus for us to look at our past with new eyes. For me it was the re-appearance of my brother after 25 years.  As I wrestled with my capacity to let go of my projections to see who was in front of me, I was also faced with witnessing my own  bad judgments as well as his.  One evening when I was sharing this process with my father, who at almost 80 was struggling with his own entrenched demons, it brought to light an old injury between us that we had never discussed.

As I told my father about how I recognized how I had abandoned my brother so many years ago, he told me that I had abandoned him as well. “You left and never looked back.  Not even a letter….” Decades later, and somehow for the first time, I realized how I had hurt my father deeply.  It was easier to understand from the vantage point  I have of being a parent myself now, but it was surprising too.  I was so busy running from the painful, violent situation that became my family after my parents’ divorce that I never thought of my father who was there trying to hold together the broken pieces.

My father’s response to emotional pain of all sorts was anger. His rage became so huge and unpredictable that it was impossible for me to move towards it. Receiving anything from him felt like it was covered in blows. This is  a truth about aggression and anger in general that I was slow to comprehend. I never saw how my own anger made it so difficult for others to accept my loving gestures.  I was so accustomed to growing up in the context of ongoing violence that I didn’t see the toll that it took for years in my own life.

Then suddenly, almost as if a veil was lifted, I saw the cycle of pain that I had contributed.  My father was equally hurt by my abandonment as I was by his rage. The more that I stayed away, the angrier he got. I was filled with regret.  I was so very sorry that I didn’t know how to go home. I was sad too, that all these years I had unknowingly and inadvertently stoked the flames of his anger by my inability to acknowledge the home he tried to offer.

These vicious cycles are what often happen in dysfunctional relationships. Everyone is being hurt by the other in ways that neither one can see. My father still has no idea how his angry, caustic comments destroy the relationships he misses. I had no idea that I was missed.

It was a true moment of forgiveness, all these years later, when my sadness about what had been missed was translated in my apology, which he was able to receive. At the same moment that  I was able to experience my regret for how badly hurt he was by my silence and absence, he was able to hear how much I had  longed for the family connection that was waiting all along to be discovered.

It was tender and soft, this healing the past in the present. It opened me to memories that I didn’t know I had about all the many ways I felt loved by him as a small girl. We both remembered the same moments and I wept for the soft voice he had for me that I hadn’t heard from him in decades. This is the miracle of love that heals the past in the present and releases you to a new future.  I want to go see my dad and hear him call my name in his soft voice.

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Wendy Strgar

Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family.  In her new book, Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy,  she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative adviceIt has been called "the essential guide for relationships."  The book is available on ebook.  Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13- 22 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.


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1:52AM PDT on Apr 11, 2013

"Many of us don't recognize how we hold our future hostage to the pain of our past." Wow, so timely for me. I know this is from last year but I just now came across it. Thank you so much Wendy. I really needed to read this.

9:08AM PDT on Apr 13, 2012

it'd be nice to know how to do it for myself

11:53AM PDT on Apr 3, 2012

"healing the past in the present..." Wow, Wendy. Thank you for this! I have huge regrettable issues in my past that I have never been able to heal. Your post may help me. I am so happy for you, that you have been able to start healing. Continued good luck to you. I will look for the fifty principles of Miracles.

11:23PM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

Thank you for sharing and I hope that this is helping you to resolve this prolonged estrangement as it seems to have been on your mind for some time. I have been trying to live deliberately for some time. I am sure that I am making mistakes and estranging others, but it is easier for me to live with the consequences. At any rate, I wish you very well.

3:34PM PDT on Apr 2, 2012


1:38PM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

thx! new post please!

3:41AM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

I'm not sure I'd be able to share this. Maybe we being strangers gives you courage to do so. I'm hoping all worked out well.

1:02AM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

Journey of life is short.May be 70 to 80 yrs But with the God gace some may live more than that bonues.Make sure to live remaing years fruitfuly without grudge happly

10:30PM PDT on Apr 1, 2012

Hmmmm.... well, Wendy, you are to be congratulated for being able to rip yourself open and throw such a personal account out to thousands of strangers. In a way I am almost bowled over by your post, and quite impressed as well. In another way I want to throw up my hands defensively and say, "TMI! too much information!" Probably because so many (of my) emotions are stirred to life by your account, yet there is so much missing information that those emotions really don't know where to go or what their correct target is.

For instance: Really? You left your father without even a letter, for years? And the same for your brother? Why was that? Was your father mean to you? Did he side with your brother re some hurtful situation? Who was the villain in their divorce? Did either your father or your brother try to contact you? Was their really no back and forth in any way? What were your goals in behaving that way? What were you thinking all that time? How did you try to "conterbalance" things? (or did you?) Etc.

Seems like the answers to all those questions would have a big bearing on the meaning of your current "undoing of the past" with its attendant insights -- i.e., "healing the past in the present."
-- just a few thoughts... Thanks, though, and I hope all is well with you now.

5:43PM PDT on Apr 1, 2012

Thanks for sharing

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