I wrote my first book when I was 10, a fact I had forgotten until recently. Something in my current life, I’m not sure what, triggered a memory of a favorite childhood book, Mr. Mysterious and Company by Sid Fleischman. The memory then took me down the path to the “knock-off” story I wrote, illustrated and bound in a little handmade cover as a project for one of my teachers. Fleischman’s original story is one of a traveling family of magicians and their adventures. My story was about me joining that happy band of nomadic performers and leaving my current life behind. In my story, I was free and happy and no longer bound by the life I was really leading. It was a fantasy I translated to paper.
It’s a good memory, and one that always reminds me of my earliest passions for writing. But the memory is also laced with terror, and the minute I go deeper, troubling, fearful emotions of my early childhood begin to arise. That crude little book was my first attempt to deal with those stories, real and imagined, that pop up when we least expect them.
Memory and the stories we tell ourselves about them are like that. They are not just snapshots in time of what really happened to us, but a complex patchwork of multiple, sometimes unrelated experiences that can shape what we remember, and more importantly, change our present reality. Sometimes the stories are buried, unreachable, running in the background of our lives without our conscious awareness, but affecting us immensely anyway. The can keep us mired in fear, anxiety and unable to move forward.
The good news is that scientists and healers know a lot more about memory and the impact of the stories we unconsciously tell ourselves. We can change how memory and fearful stories about what might happen rule our lives. It’s a process of excavation and revision, but with care and awareness we can rewrite the stories that keep us tethered to fear. And that’s real magic.
How do you own your fearful memories?