Time heals all wounds. Doesn’t it? Well, I’m not so sure. Wouldn’t it be interesting to go back, say 20 to 25 years, to see what was going on, what we were dealing with, what we were thinking back then? Perhaps it is more true that time buries old wounds and if they are uncovered, we simply have to deal with them again.
For the last six months I have been traveling back to the early 1990s as I completed a project I began working on a number of years ago. The project – typing up the handwritten journals that I began writing in the early 1980s. I have hopes of someday turning these journals into something I can share with others. Getting them on a computer where they are easier to manage and edit will be valuable for this future endeavor.
It can be tricky revisiting the past, however. There were fun times I was able to reminisce about; struggles that I worked through in the moment and over time; and there were a few items that were hard to look at – sad and difficult times; relationships where I found myself not liking the way I treated people; other relationships where I didn’t like how people treated me.
One theme struck me the most. Many things I spend time thinking about today are items I was struggling with 25 years ago: Relationships – how much to join in/how much to go my own way; anxiety in social situations; wanting to write more and fear of sharing my writing with others.
In the past, I spent a lot of time and energy with these issues, hesitantly taking a step forward, jumping back when things did not feel comfortable. I surprised myself in seeing how well I was doing with these issues – at times, years ago. I was also surprised that, although I had successes, I often was not able to keep the positive momentum going.
The momentum stopped whenever something led me to step back after taking my hesitant step forward. To make strides in relationships, anxiety, writing – I needed to think about and act on them. Whenever I stepped back, the passage of time did not magically “heal” (or more accurately, move me forward) in these areas. When I was able to come back to a struggle that I had stepped away from, I came back to the struggle more or less at the point where I had left it.
Issues from our past do not go away on their own. Things that I was dealing with 25 years ago are still with me in some ways, though I am in a much better place in those areas where I spent the time and energy to improve. Areas of my life that I have not worked on are pretty much where they were years ago.
I don’t like clichés, especially in my line of work. They are more likely to cover up and hide something meaningful, rather than lead to new insights. The phrase I started this blog with is a great example of this.
The rare instances I do use cliché, I try to make sure it has meaning. A more accurate phrase could be, “Those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to repeat the past.” Yet, this is also too much of a generalization and thus problematic. Perhaps more on this another time.
Reggie E., MSW, CEAP, joined Empathia in 2005 as an EAP Counselor. Reggie has a master’s degree in Social Work as well as bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and the Comparative Study of Religion from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to a career change to social work, he worked in a variety of fields including banking, trucking and metal fabrication.