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History & Mystery Starts With Ourselves

“You will go deeper and deeper and deeper….”

I lay on my bed as I listen to the self-hypnosis script on YouTube. There are images and emotions ribboning through my system. My left leg twitches again and again. I have been reworking my subconscious to improve my confidence.

Usually, when I consider mysteries from history my thoughts go to archaeological ruins or historic documents to explore. Today I am considering self- history. How did we become who we are at this moment? Who better to explore who we are and how we became ourselves than us!

In counseling a topic often surfacing is that of nature vs. nurture. I’ve done some of this self-discovery. Family of origin issues may surface allowing self-healing. Maybe you find out something you never knew about yourself. Maybe you learn to accept yourself in a way you never did before. Counseling and dealing with mental health is a deeper topic. We all have stuff better left to a professional to help sort through and maybe that is the best place to keep it. No doubt the dark stuff in our lives contributed to its formation, but so too did the light.

How to approach this exploration? I tried my best to come up with a mnemonic to remember. I came up with R.R.A.S. (I actually hate mnemonics as I have experienced endless ones in the teaching profession. Oftentimes, the actual purpose of what you’re trying to learn gets lost in this cutesy teacher approach. We can do better!) I don’t mean to R.R.A.S. you but what is important is that we explore deeply our life adventures. So what are the parts of the approach I am proposing?  The parts of researching include; 1) Remember, 2) Records, 3) Ask, and 4) Seek.

Remember-

If you watch a great movie or read an excellent book, you will talk about the parts you found most interesting. These are the “Gold” of the story. We need to approach our own lives in the same manner. Sit down with scrap paper and write down the “Gold” from your life story so far. When did you experience the greatest happiness? Sadness? Confusion? When did you make a choice you regretted? When did you make a good choice? When did you make a choice which changed the path you were on? Every single person has their own story. Every person has had ups and downs. What stands out as the most vivid in your memory?

After you’ve selected the “Gold” you remember, take each of these chunks and dig deeper. What are the details from the setting? Who was there? How did you feel? How did you process everything afterward? This step of exploring can really add to the overall story.

So, remember and remember well.

Records-

What are the records of your life? Are there photo albums, recordings, artwork, or other means of recording your life story? What do these artifacts tell you? What do you think they will tell others? Who is present in your records? What is the context of the record (for example, was the photo taken at Christmas? A wedding? Or A family dinner?). And what do you remember from the picture/ record? Look for the clues. What details stand out? What details appear but are not the focus of the record (for example, maybe a book, a cake, a walking cane, or whatever are off to the side. They’re recorded in the photo but unintentionally). Again, much like memories, you may find the chance to dig deeper.

Genealogy relies on birth, death, marriage, and other official records of this sort. If you are working on a family tree or a story of the family such as Alex Haley’s Roots, some of these records will provide essential information.  For self- histories, such records may provide something of interest (an example would be my birth certificate gives the time of day which gives more context to the family stories shared from the momentous event).

Ask-

The formative years, say up to age seven, have a serious impact on the remainder of your life. You may remember pieces from the start of your life, but to reconstruct this part of your life, you will need to rely on other primary sources such as family, neighbors, photos, recordings, people who knew you, and such. What you cannot find in records may be found by asking others. Parents and other older relatives may provide some more pieces to the puzzle.

This part of your research is really important as it is the foundation of your life. The key to understanding is- What kind of a foundation does my life have? While there are some who have solid foundations from a healthy upbringing, some come from a family which left the foundation cracked. This may be overwhelming and painful to understand. It is important though for two basic reasons: 1) it allows the individual to better understand the role a parent and family played in the development of an individual. (A Principal I once worked with was fond of saying, “being a parent is the most important job you will ever have”. She was right.)  And, 2) how do your life experiences and foundation lead to the product of who you are today?

Consider family stories. What is your name and how did you get it? What is your heritage? What are the ripple effects of ancestral decisions? (For example, some of my ancestors exited Ireland during the Irish Potato Famine. What was the impact of their decision on me?) Are there stories of adventurers or horse thieves? Consider them all.

As you move through your life up to the present, take a similar approach to key pieces forming who you are. Who might have information which would add to your story? Try to fill in the pieces. Seek it out. Find it. Ask.

Seek-

At the beginning of this piece, I mentioned self-hypnosis. This may be a means to rebuild a faulty foundation. For me, memories that surface in hypnosis and subconscious exploration explain habits that served a purpose in the past but are no longer needed. Clearing away and reworking thought and action patterning helps me in my present and future life. Knowing the pieces which influenced my life is helpful in self-healing but also provides missed glimpses into my rich life history.

I am certain there are other ways to tap into this information. Hypnosis may not be to your comfort level. Maybe mediation or prayer or simply a more objective review of the puzzle pieces you already have will provide more insights.

Life History- What to Share-

Obviously, we do not all have shiny happy life histories. I recently read the memoir From Chains to Change and found I related to key parts of Young’s life. He shared some intense and disturbing details which played out in forming the person he is today. What we can relate to and what we can’t relate to in another person’s story gives us the means to reflect on our own story. We are all human and formed by our experiences.

So, what do we share? I think it depends on the context of the sharing. Some matters may be best left to share with a professional. Other matters may create a bridge between writer and reader. As with any writing or sharing, you must focus on your audience. Consider who you are sharing with and what they want to get from your story.

I have started a memoir on my experience with Morgellons Disease. I may or may not finish this piece. I do think it could help others who have or are going through these symptoms. I also think a better understanding of this severely misunderstood condition could lead to widespread empathy.

In the end, you may want only to write your life story for yourself. This is okay. Clarity of our past may help us to better direct our future. It is your choice. It is your story.

The mysteries of our own history may be solved or, at least, better understood. You are on an adventure. It is only half-time. Will you find a way to score a touchdown or two? This is your choice. Looking back may give you the means to navigate the blocks and stumbles as you head towards the end zone. Watch out for the zombies!

1 Comment

  • Eric
    Posted August 17, 2022 at 4:19 pm

    Lots of practical advice for writing a memoir. Great job. And thanks for mentioning my recent book, which was.a labor of love. Lots of labor and lot of love

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