Last night, Dana and I were watching Doctor Who with our friend Matt, and all of the sudden, I knew I had a writing prompt. Everyone has those things for which they hold themselves responsible that damage them emotionally… You can release the anger and shame if you stop blaming yourself and start blaming the futures that never happened. Open yourself to the possibility that the path you took was just the one you chose at the time, and in that time and place, it made the most sense. It isn’t exactly that you made a mistake, it’s that you didn’t know what you didn’t know.
Sounds different, doesn’t it? The connotation of guilt lifts in a way that it hadn’t for me before. I could stop blaming myself for things that didn’t happen because I closed the door on them. I didn’t intentionally do anything to hurt anyone. I just made the best choice with the knowledge I had at the time.
Surely it is impossible to make the right decision without all the facts. But we in all of our beautiful humanness have a way of attaching ourselves to the things that never occurred in the first place and massaging them with worry. Understand that the things that could happen are infinite; there is no way that the mind is even capable of processing that much information in a moment’s notice. Additionally, processing outcomes is even harder when you stop to consider even one emotion, much less many.
The reaction I had to this realization freed me to look at my memories with stunning clarity. Mistakes aren’t mistakes when you look at them through the lens of being a fallible human being who closed the door on an infinite possibility because a decision was made, and not in a malicious way.
But it’s the malicious memories that haunt us the most, right? Those moments when our base selves coerce us into trouble because the dark side of ourselves demands to be fed. Our lizard brains tell us to make decisions that affect people negatively… maybe it’s because we’re trying to avoid pain… and in our darkest moments, hurting people just because we can- it feels so good sometimes, doesn’t it?
Do yourself a favor. When the urge to do something wrong hits you and you decide to go through with it (because we all have our dark sides whether we’ll talk about them or not), wait a few years until your perspective has changed and watch the scene over in your mind. Give yourself love and compassion because now you have a chance to look at what drove you to make that decision in the first place. Know that this in and of itself is healthy, and figuring out your own role in your own memories will give you the power to forgive.
You can, in a sense, be in a better place to acknowledge that something made you react poorly, and you can see all the futures that could have been had you not let your dark side come out. You can see that you were a total jerk in the moment, and you can tell yourself why. Knowing why you did what you did will encourage you to treat yourself with kindness, because you know you would forgive anyone else if they came to you with the same story, because it’s not that bad.
The sooner you can process your “dark side moments” and forgive yourself, the sooner you will be able to live in the moment, instead of berating yourself for the past.