Why We Sometimes Go Back

Life can be complicated in my head, at times.  Especially when emotional memories get involved.  It’s very easy for me to find myself trying to deal with a knot of thoughts and emotions and memories, very similar to the way my necklaces used to get tangled when I was a girl.  As an adult, I’ve learned not to yank in frustration on a tangled necklace because it just makes it worse, and I guess I’ve also learned that when memories, emotions and thoughts start to tangle that I need to slow down and seek assistance in sorting it out.

I see a therapist on a regular basis for just such assistance, and it came in handy recently.  I found myself considering the possibility of inviting a former friend back into my life even though I know this person is not good for me.  I was really upset with myself and needed to talk to someone about why I might be considering “going back” to an unhealthy relationship.  If nothing else, I needed to talk to someone about it because the longer I didn’t, the more I was starting to yank and pull at the memories, then the thoughts and next the emotions, making the knot worse.

I started out by telling my therapist that I had been having thoughts and memories about a particular person from my past and had been thinking of opening lines of communication again.  I told her how upset I was with myself that I would entertain this thought, since even though I had lots of good memories about time spent with the person, I knew that the abusive elements were still there and would inevitably cause pain, which is why I had closed that door in the past.  I said to my therapist in tears, “Will I ever be safe from myself?  Why would I consider re-inviting this person into my life?”

What happened next was amazing.

My therapist started to gently loosen the tied knots and helped me untie them.  And in the process, I learned something invaluable.  We talked over what had been going on the last few weeks.  It has been a long, hard winter.  The harsh temperatures and endless weather have in many ways isolated me.  I have always loved getting together with close, comfortable friends and laughing, sharing and enjoying.  The difficult winter has significantly reduced these opportunities.  A few weeks ago, I realized that winter will be over soon and I will be able to start inviting friends over to enjoy the new fire pit on our deck – something I haven’t done with my new friends, in my new home – something I did a lot of in my previous home with the former friend.

Memories are stored associatively.  I guess I knew that, but didn’t understand its impact.  My therapist helped me see that one memory can have several associated tags.  Thinking about fire pits and friendship naturally also opened up my memory files about my former friend, which in turn opened up other associated memories.  It wasn’t as simple, or as complicated as I had thought.  I hadn’t just started thinking about re-connecting with an unhealthy past relationship.

I can’t tell you how understanding this suddenly made me feel safe and confident in my own healing.  I really have come a long way and I now surround myself with healthy relationships.  I had been far too quick to judge myself, or conclude that there was some unfinished business that I needed to return to and deal with.  What had transpired over the last few weeks was just the natural way memory works.

More importantly, it was a reminder that I need to listen to what I am needing and honor that.  I need friendship, silliness and deep conversations.  I need nights on the deck with a fire and a glass of wine.  And I can’t wait until it’s warm enough to make the new memories.


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