Determinism. According to Wikipedia “Determinism is the philosophical belief that all events are determined completely by previously existing causes”. I like to hate on Determinism. Why? Because I had a very good friend who used it to justify anything. And even though he denied it, it felt to me that he was not taking responsibility for anything. To this day I still remember. And I remember that I have chosen to not use Determinism to be able to do whatever I want. But I also know that our past and our circumstances have an incredible impact on us.
This is just one example. I will always associate Determinism with that friend. And I will always remember the conversations we had about how we hardly have any free will and how helpless and sad that made me feel. But it is not the only thing that I associate with Determinism. Because I have seen that point of view, I was able to make up my own mind. And Memories are a perfect example, for how our past is part of us, but not what defines us.
We have memories. Maybe we associate a song or a movie with a certain person or situation. And every time we get confronted with said song or movie we remember. But the thing is: if that memory pains us we can do something about it. We can reprogram our brains to associate the movie or song with something else. It is like we are overwriting the memory. It is called learning. And yes, we may never forget anything that once was correlated with that song or movie. But that is actually a good thing. This memory is part of us. And we learn something with everything we experience. But just because we do not forget, does not mean that we will always remember that certain person or situation with the particular song or movie. And it will definitely not make us loose ourselves, just because the song was played in the mall.
When we look into our past, we will find things that we consider mistakes. And there is no use in denying anything. Just because we wish something never happened, we cannot simply forget it. Those memories are part of who we are today. And coming to terms with those things means admitting our mistakes. Sometimes even regretting them. But we cannot dwell on them. Because our past does not define our future. Our past may be an explanation to certain things, but do not let it be an excuse. We must learn how to rewire our brains such that we do not suffer an emotional reaction every time we think of certain chapters of our past. (Don’t get me wrong, emotional reactions are nothing to be ashamed of. But there are certain times, when we’d rather not show them, because they would be plain inappropriate.)
We cannot deny our past. But we can decide how we react to it. We can decide what we take from it. We can decide how we want to live right now.
I do not know if some day I will not feel triggered every time I run across a craft-knife or a classical razor-blade. But I know that I have not cut in a month and that this is something I can be grateful for. Every time I see those blades I can remember the pain of this world. And I can be grateful that I have experienced some of it. Because it means that when I say “I understand, what you are feeling.” I am not lying. I know that my cutting has given me a totally different approach to addiction and I dare say I understand it better now. And if all it did, was teaching me how to be less judgemental, I am grateful.
I do not deny that I have the urge to take a blade and just run it over my skin, especially in the evenings. Especially when I am alone. But whether or not I do is not predetermined. Just because I have cut in the past, does not mean, that will do it again in the future.
A totally different aspect of memories is, that I believe it is, what ties us to people. Because if we could not remember, we would never get close to anyone. We would never learn to value or fear the people in our lives. And this is important to keep in mind, when we want to interact with people. When we wish to get close to someone. Sharing memories is probably one of the strongest bonds there is. And the friendships that can grow from those bonds is precious beyond words.
Forgetting someone we share a lot of emotional memories with… I do not think it is possible. We come across people in our lives, that we may wish to forget. But chances are we will never get them out of our heads. Because we do not simply forget memories. We can do the same as with anything: Reprogram. But we will never really forget. And I wish I could say I am okay with that. And some day I think I will be. Everyone who we across will teach us something. And we do not want to forget those lessons. The pain will fade with time. But the memory will stay. We will remember. And thinking about it is beautiful, because sharing memories with someone we may not engrave our names in their heart (huh this line is cheesy) but we will engrave the lesson that we taught them in their brain. Which is worth so much more.
All in all: we cannot forget our mistakes. We cannot forget people. But we can choose our future. We can choose to learn from the past. And to not make the same mistakes again. And this way even when we cannot get rid of the painful memories, we grow. We learn to understand the world and ourselves. And those memories will keep the lessons alive. This is forgetting is not even that desirable. We want the pain to fade. I get it. I really do. And it will fade. But there is no need for us to fight the memories. Fight our past selves. We just need to have the courage to accept who we were and who we are today. And then we can decide who we will be in the future.