What makes us who we are? Is it our family? Our friends? Our education? Our financial status? Is it how we view the world and our role in it? What about the decisions we make? All of these are accurate, but what about our memories? Do they have a role in our makeup?
Are we what our memories tell us we are?
That sounds a little confusing, doesn’t it? But think about it. We all have different ways of remembering the past. We all have good memories. Some of us place more emphasis on these than others. For some, memories are the biggest indicator of who they are and the life they lead. For others? Not so much. Some might actually “change” the past by warping the truth to fit their own agenda. They do it to save themselves from pain or shame. They do it to make it easier to deal with.
Memories help us determine the good from the bad. They help shape our existence and our experience. But do memories actually shape our lives? Do they work as a guide, telling us good from bad or happy from sad?
Think of those who have experienced personal tragedies; loss of loved ones, tremendous burdens, excruciating torture, and every other painful incident that can shape one’s life. These individuals might hide from the facts just to make it through their days. Or they may “remember” what happened in ways that are quite different from what really happened.
If we add up all of these questions, what do we get? The truth? Maybe not. A coping method? Perhaps. But do our memories actually shape our future decisions?
I’d say yes – if we let them. Think of an instance where you felt uncomfortable. In the future, you may try to avoid a similar situation, so you don’t feel anxious. But does that help us grow, hiding from pain? Maybe. Or maybe not. It could be that we simply needed to know how we feel about a certain circumstance. Or maybe we just needed to know the difference between how we judge good from bad.
That brings up one of my favorite quotes from Shakespeare, “It’s neither good nor bad, but thinking that makes it so.” Hitler thought he was uniting Germany and returning it to powerful world stage status again before he started World War II.
Memories also have a pull on how we feel at any given moment. We may hear a song or pass a restaurant and think of a bad memory. That makes me think of another quote, this one from Abraham Lincoln, “Most folks are as happy as they allow themselves to be.”
I brought up that quote to show that, even though our brains might be bombarded with thoughts, sights, or sounds that trigger memories, we have the ability to determine how they affect us. We can either give in to the bad or we can decide to change our outlook.
And when it comes to memories, we have the ability to decide whether or not we’ll allow them to inhibit us or to take control of our lives and determine our own path, regardless of how our they have shaped us.
But one thing is certain; only those who test their fears and come out on the other side will be able to get past their memories and pave a way toward the future!