I was reading a fascinating article last week about strange but true science. It seems that during the last ice age, a vast sheet of ice covered northern Canada and compressed the earth’s crust. This left a deep imprint that, when the ice melted, turned into the Hudson Bay. The earth’s crust is rebounding at 1/2 an inch a year, but until it is fully restored, the effects of gravity are less when measured over the water of the bay. In other words, you would weigh less if you stepped on a scale on a boat over the Hudson Bay. Strange, but true. Useful too if you want to quickly “lose” a few pounds without the usual effort.
This got me thinking about how my life has been shaped, for better and for worse, by what has happened during those formative early years. I still remember sitting on the concrete floor in the basement learning how to tie my shoes at 5 years of age. I used that past experience this moring to tie my shoes with no conscious awareness of how I was drawing on my past.
While history is not destiny, it is trajectory. In other words, your past doesn’t prevent a different future, but it will be your future until the unresolved parts that were “squished” are given what they need to rebound and heal. For example, a woman once came to me for anxiety therapy. While she did suffer from debilitating anxiety, what we also found was that there was a tremendous about of anger, sadness and loneliness that was not yet voiced from here difficult childhood. After doing some great work getting out all that past hurt, she realized that she no longer struggled with paralyzing anxiety. She could finally be peaceful.
The impression left by the past continues to hold power whether recognized or not. Most often it is not because, after all, didn’t we all grow up in “normal families” and now do life the way it is “supposed to be done.” Yet, the unavoidable truth is that we are all launched into life with beliefs about what is true for how life and relationships go and what our place is in them. Some of those are helpful because they are based in truth and reality while some of them set us up for pain and fear because they are rooted in lies. Problems arise mainly when we are unwilling to look for and address the parts that did not go well enough.
I know that as a parent I too will leave an imprint on my children, for better and for worse. The areas of my own life that are still “rebounding” and healing, like the earth’s crust, continue to produce a pull that will affect those closest to me. I’ts sad, but unavoidable in this fallen world. Even in the blissful bubble of Orange County you will find a psychologist on nearly every corner, confirming that that no one escapes the effects of the past.
I guess the life and legacy I wish to grow is one where, for better and for worse, the weight of the past is acknowledged, examined and used as a guide for growing into a healthier future.