On Reenacting the Past

Lesley Glenner

On Reenacting the Past 

When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh

The past enchants us all.

Whether we recognize it or not, we feel a strong unconscious draw to recreate familiar conditions. Our memories ensure events of the past take hold at a deep, often subconscious level.

We cleave to what is known—places, situations, people. It’s simply part of our nature to do so.

Sometimes it feels as if we are born to repeat patterns. We tend to sit at the same seats. We eat the same foods. We listen to the same songs.
And we often instinctively treat our children as our parents treated us.

Sometimes we do this without even realizing there might be other options. We’re swimming in our own childhood programming without even seeing the water.

Embracing the familiar can mislead us.

This instinct to seek the familiar is designed to keep us safe. Our limbic systems (lizard brain) believe what kept us alive yesterday will surely save us again today.

To our unconscious minds, the familiar feels safe, right, and good. Unfortunately, by sticking with the “known” elements of the past, we will likely feel safe, whether or not they were or are actually good for us today.

This might mean sticking with an abusive partner, or putting up with damaging behaviors from family members, just because they remind us of someone who once cared for us.

Seeking the unfamiliar has pitfalls, too.

When the ‘what was’ of the past feels like a terrible memory, we may try to escape the past by seeking the very opposite. We believe that if we can move as far away from the familiar as possible we will be emotionally safe from relational pain.

Unfortunately, this flawed tactic also leaves us exposed to pain. In these instances, we still recreate the conditions of the past in order to heal and be whole. Our subconscious wants to work on it.

The beautiful catastrophe is that we re-create painful dynamics with our partners and children in order to heal. We test the validity of our core wounds by “hiring” partners who help us set up dynamics to activate our core wounds. It’s a chance to make things better.

As I’ve written previously {LINK TO “ON LOVE…”}, while we are injured in relationship, we also heal in relationship. We are holo-tropic beings–tending toward wholeness.

The examined experience gives us choices.

When we look at and understand our unconscious (or semi-conscious) recreations, choice is born. We can feel our feelings to completion, examine in the light of day what was good and what was not so good about the past without being overly committed or repelled by it.

We can find our way to the healthy middle path, the place of heath, alignment, self-actualization, and true self. We can actually heal through metabolizing and integrating the truth.

Parents who are aware — and working on — breaking this cycle not only heal themselves, but do better by their spouses and their children.

“If you never heal from what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you”.
– Anonymous

Lesley’s Longmont private therapy practice is centered on conscious parenting.

The greatest dedication in my life is to my child, Jude, who enters kindergarten this year. Additionally, after 8 years in private practice seeing both couples and individuals struggle with wounds from their own parenting and issues around raising their own children, I’ve found that helping clients to parent in a more conscious and securely attached manner absolutely lights me up. Following the thread of what is most alive in my personal and professional lives helped me crystalize the idea to introduce conscious parenting as the focus of my practice. ~ Lesley Glenner

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