Does the Mental ‘Dark Room’ Drag You Down?

You really did not plan to go there.  But your mind seems to ‘go there’ more often than you want.  Whether walking your dog, driving to work, reading a book, or even going to a professional sporting event, it seems your mind drifts there.  First you find your mind ruminating in the ‘dark room’ of days gone by.  Then you begin to say things to yourself that no one around you hears you saying (self-talk).  Before you know it you are distracted mentally and feel ‘down’ emotionally.

If you find yourself in a mental ‘dark room’ and you don’t want to be there take the following words to heart.

When thinking about the past in your life there is ‘reality’.  I believe most of us think to ourselves, “I know what happened.  I know what you (someone in your life) did.”  We think we have a pretty good handle on reality.  But the fact is, we don’t.  Reality is either the full picture that only God sees or the philosophical ‘complete picture’ that in your individual humanity you cannot see.

But you do have these memories of the past.  Your ‘story’ is important.  Don’t let anyone disregard you or tell you your story isn’t important.  Your story and what you think and feel matters.  But you will come to a wonderful crossroads in the healing of your memories when you discover that while your story is important, it isn’t the whole story.  The information that we have is not complete.  We have gaps in our information.  Our knowledge is only partial. This helps reduce our sense of certainty and produce in us humility and grace.

So, here’s the deal.  Our minds fill in these gaps in our knowledge.  Our minds create the story we tell ourselves and others.  Our story is always from our point of view.  We see ourselves in a good light.  Of course, we think we are right.  We know what happened.  Maybe we tell ourselves that we were the victim and the other person was the villain.  Maybe we tell ourselves there is nothing we can do about it.  We are helpless; we can’t do much of anything to change this.

We cast the other person in a negative light.  We attribute to them something negative (technically called ‘fundamental attribution error) which may or may not be true.  Again, our minds take what we know, fill in the gaps of our awareness and then create ‘our story’ which may be an ‘ugly story’ about the other person.

Are you following along with me?  We started with the ‘dark room’ your mind and your emotions have dragged you into.  And the issue for you is ‘how do I get out?’.

REALITY                                YOUR STORY                                     

Now, add to your story, ‘the rest of the story’.  The rest of the story includes the information from the gaps in your awareness.  It is the story others involved could add.  Chances are that the others in your story have moved on.  Their minds don’t drag them into the dark room of the past.  They’ve moved on.  It is you who is struck in the story of your past.  If they were to tell the rest of the story they would  share information that would help fill in the gaps of your information.  They would shed light on the event(s) or traumatic memory of which you are unaware.  That is ‘the rest of the story’.

Yes, for sure, the story they would tell is biased.  Yes, they would place themselves in the story in a good light. But it is only in adding your story to the rest of the story that the ‘real story’ can be discovered.  It would take time and patience collaborating together to get to a fuller understanding of this story.  However, very often those who’ve ‘moved on’ want nothing to do with going back to sort things out.  So, there you are, left alone with the memory of your story and this memory drags you into a ‘dark room’ in you down in your mind and emotions.

Are you following along with me?  We started with the ‘dark room’ your mind and emotions have dragged you into.  And the issue for you is ‘how do I get out?’.

REALITY                                YOUR STORY              THE REST OF THE STORY      

I am a conflict coach and mediator in private practice as a marriage counselor.  I meet with people week in and week out that get dragged into the dark room of emotional hurt.  They find themselves stuck in memories they allow themselves to dredge up from the past.  A composite of their experiences might look something like this.  We’ve been meeting for months…they are stuck in a story they share over and again.  The facts of this story seem so fresh and relevant to them.  And when it dawns on me to ask them when this event  occurred, turns out it was 10 years ago…28 years ago, etc.  Nonetheless, they find themselves hung up on the reality of their hurt.  How can they get past these memories and their hurt?

Are you following along with me?  We started with the ‘dark room’ your mind and emotions have dragged you into.  And the issue is ‘how do I get out?’.

REALITY                         YOUR STORY                        THE REST OF THE STORY                        PURGE THE STORY

I, too, struggle with letting go of the past.  I believe the laundry room of relationships is forgiveness.  But forgiveness does not mean you can forget.  One of the best computers ever built sits on the top of your shoulders.  Your mind remembers details, especially those burned into your memory through emotional trauma.  Forgiveness is making a decision to view the debt as “paid in full”.  Forgiveness is a decision to give up the right to ruminate on or retaliate for the wrong done.  Forgiveness is burying the dead story tail and all and refusing to bring it up again either in your mind or in your conversations.  That’s forgiveness.

I believe that the negative stories that drag us into the dark room of the past should have a ‘shelf life’.  Stamped on every soft drink, on the meat from the deli, are ‘consume by” dates.  It seems to me that the only chance we have to escape the ‘dark room’ of bad memories is to place a shelf life date on memories that have wounded us by which we let them go.

When I think of purging the story I think of walking under a waterfall and allowing my mind and emotions to be washed.  I too struggle with purging the stories of the past.  If you find yourself dragged into a memory ‘dark room’ — work at purging the ugly stories  in your past.

Your Conflict Dynamics

You deeply desire a stable, loving relationship. You want to feel close to each other. But arguing and fighting is disrupting your relationship. There doesn’t seem to be resolution. Doubts have crept into your mind. It isn’t having differences that troubles you. It is that you don’t seem to make progress and maybe don’t feel ‘safe’. The negative feelings you hold in or display, the emotional pain you suffer, and the constant battering you endure eats away at your relational health. This experience is common in close, long-term relationships. Do you know how to get off the conflict merry-go-round? The first step toward improving your relationship is to break the bondage to this dreadful conflict cycle. The link below will give you access to a brochure with visual representations of the conflict patterns you experience. No, the brochure does not explain how to exit these destructive patterns. That will come in a future online course. But the brochure is a start toward understanding the relational patterns you experience.

Your Conflict Dynamics brochure

Childhood Dreams

I have no idea where I found this story.  But it surely is inspiring.

“Who is that little girl herding sheep on the left? Children dream of becoming doctors, teachers, firemen… And some dream of becoming leaders. I don’t know what Najat Vallaud-Belkacem was dreaming out in that rustic Moroccan countryside but whatever it was it led her to become the first woman to be appointed Minister of Education, Higher Education, and Research in the French government. Bravo to you Najat! And thank you for infusing all our dreams with an inspirational dose of reality!”  Yitzchok Kornblau

The Honeymoon Habit

Have you discovered the “honeymoon habit”?  This means living life as you imagined it, before children, before the mortgage, before the hurried pace and ups and downs of routine.  Continuing the conversation you had in your courtship.

We do not outgrow the need for intense closeness, nurturing, and comfort.  Our need to depend on one precious other person never dissolves. The fount of all comfort and respite is emotional connection.  “Intimacy is our emotional slow food, the lovely home-cooked meal in a world of drive-thru orders.” Getting Close, Lisa A. Phillips, Psychology Today, Vol 50, 1

True, infatuated love diminishes. The days of intrusive thinking, aching heart, ‘love conquers all’ fade away and drop off.  Then what?  You begin to enter the work of building and growing your loving attachment. The honeymoon can continue but you have to make time to be together in positive ways.  Ways that  fill your love bank, sharpens your perspective, and improves your ability to solve problems together.

Here is an activity you can do to improve your perspective on each other and it will help build and grow your “honeymoon habit”.  Using the link below download this 4 X 6 card.  List 3 + things that attracted you to your love.  Read this list twice a day.  And say one of them each day to your partner.  Do this for a week.  Then what?  Use the back of the card to write down 3 more things you like about your partner.  Share one of them each day.  And what about the third week?  The same.  From your list of positives about your partner share one of them at least 3 times a week.  Enjoy.

Three Things That Attracted Me

P.S.  Don’t underestimate this “practice field” activity.  It will help you develop the discipline of “scanning for the positive”.  Couples live their way into patterns or mental frames of thinking toward each other.  These ways of seeing each other must be positive if we are to grow the honeymoon habit.

Welcome to the Celebrate Marriage Blog

Celebrate Marriage is built on the following convictions:

At Celebrate Marriage we are so excited to begin a new way to share what we know about the mystery of communication and conflict resolution.

First, the goal of marriage is not surviving but thriving!  The desire of a happy marriage is one of the most common longings of the human heart.  Marriage is intended to bring closeness, security and safety.  Long-term, intimate relationships are to be the most satisfying experience of partnership, companionship and friendship life has to offer.   “We want to marry our best friend, then enjoy our spouse and enjoy being married.” Shaunti Feldmahn

Second, conflict is normal in all long-term relationships, especially in the intimate relationship of marriage.  Not only is conflict normal but it is necessary to take two people into deeper levels of communication, intimacy and the riches of genuine love.  Oftentimes, couples are able to work through their differences to a place of acceptance.  But…

Third, there are times couples get “stuck” in the “crazy cycle” and need help in their pursuit of relational satisfaction and conflict resolution.

It is to these objectives that the Celebrate Marriage Blog offers conflict coaching and conversation about the things that make for security, safety, and satisfaction in you love relationship.