When my boyfriend in high school cheated on me with a long-time family friend, I thought a part of me died. For a long time (five years) I didn’t dare let another man get close – in fact, it even impacted my friendships with other women. A part of me had died – the trusting, forgiving, vulnerable being. I felt violated, and thought of myself as a victim in a cold, cruel, unfair world that was love.
Trust, or distrust I should say, has continued to dominate aspects of my personal life. It’s difficult to say whether I may take some twisted sort of pleasure in being the victim, or if the thought of my personal victimhood has been so pervasive in my self-narrative that it has become part of my identity.
In Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now, he discusses the following idea which forced me to question my created reality as victim:
“What you think of as the past is a memory trace, stored in the mind, of a former Now. When you remember the past, you reactivate a memory trace… The future is an imagined Now, a projection of the mind… Past and future obviously have no reality of their own. Just as the moon has no light of its own, but can only reflect the light of the sun, so are past and future only pale reflections of the light, power, and reality of the eternal present. Their reality is “borrowed” from the Now.”
The idea here is that, all that exists in our lives is the current moment. Each passing moment, is the only reality that is real, alive, and breathing. The past is a memory and only exists in mind. Similarly, the future has not yet been created and also only exists in mind. Therefore, the present is all and everything that we have.
I speak specifically of the past when I say that yes our experiences shape who we are in the present. But it is the existence and moreover the persistence of our thoughts that allow those experiences and the attached beliefs to live on. If I continue to believe in and engage in my thoughts of victimhood, I allow this past to endure and to exist in my current reality, in my “Now.” The fire burns because I fuel it.
In this sense, we are both the cause and the solution to our problems. This can be terrifying but it is also empowering. It suggests that while the world around us is largely outside of our control, our thoughts, beliefs, and reactions are within our control – that our very thoughts are what molds our realities, our “Now’s.” While I could not control the actions of my ex-boyfriend or friend, I have the power to prevent the memory from poisoning my current reality. We are the deciders of our happiness, our depression, our serenity, our anxiety, or any other emotion. When we can control our thinking (instead of letting our thoughts run amuck), we become oriented to and connected to the present moment. Despite what is without us, peace and joy can still be found within us if we choose them and allow them to be.
So, what would happen if we stopped feeding our fires? Would they go out? Would they cease to burn? Well, I’m ready to find out – but I believe that eventually, yes!