Friday, August 29, 2008

We are what we think

One of the most interesting news stories I have encountered recently is new research showing that talking about past trauma may not improve a person's recovery. It may be better to "forget" the past, or at least not to dwell on it.

See article here

This seems obvious to me.

We are what we think! Human beings are the sum of their thoughts, feelings and actions in the present moment. Of course, this does include their memories of the past. But the past cannot be changed. Only our reactions to the past are in our control.

People who have experienced trauma can make their own choices. Some choose to define their lives by it, becoming a full-time victim. Others find the strength and resilience to continue their lives, filling their time with positive thoughts and actions. Which would you prefer?

My personal experience includes living through war. Two years ago, I lived through the daily missile attacks on my city, Haifa, during the Second Lebanon War (as it is known here). At the time, when the war finished, I felt emotionally depleted and vulnerable and really didn't know how long it would take me to recover. What happened was that quite quickly I returned to my daily routine, as did almost everyone I know. Instead of dwelling on the experience, it seems that most people in Haifa just got on with life, and our experiences of the war are hardly ever mentioned.

This may be how some Holocaust survivors dealt with their traumas, in silence. Presumably, some victims of all types of trauma (war, rape, abuse, accidents) have just chosen to move on and fill their present and future with positive, enriching thoughts and experiences. I hope the new research will show them and people around them that this can be a good decision, and that people should not be forced to discuss the past and undergo this sort of therapy if they prefer to continue their lives.

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