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Ralph Dranow : Writing Your Life Story: Dealing With Painful Memories

Writing Your Life Story: Dealing With Painful Memories

By Ralph Dranow

Some of you might have seriously considered writing your life story but then thought, "I've done some things in my life that I regret and don't want to revisit or reveal to other people. But if I leave these things out, wouldn't that be dishonest?"

This is an important question, because it takes in almost all of us. Who among us doesn't have some regrets about misguided behavior or choices that have harmed other people or ourselves? That goes with the territory of being a living, breathing human being with feelings.

So what do we do with this difficult material if we want to write our life story? One thought is that we can touch these painful memories with compassion, bringing our current level of awareness to them. Many of us have had difficult childhoods in which we learned negative patterns of behavior in order to protect ourselves and survive emotionally and even physically. Childhood wounding can lead to behavior that's terribly destructive to ourselves and others. But fortunately, as we live our lives, we have the opportunity to evolve, to reflect on our lives, to see patterns and learn from our mistakes. We can see why we did certain things and forgive ourselves as vulnerable human creatures who did the best we could at the time. You're not excusing your behavior, but you're being honest about your human ignorance and frailty and seeing it from a different, more compassionate perspective.

And those painful memories will be only a part of your life story. There will be other, more positive memories that sometimes need to be focused on and cultivated to give us some perspective on the blessings we've received, as well as the understandings we've come to through our own efforts. Sometimes it's easy to overlook the good things and focus on the problems and deficiencies we perceive. Writing your life story is an opportunity to give yourself credit for the positive aspects of your life.

Also, you have a choice what to include in your memoir. You don't need to focus on every regret and painful memory. As you write, it will become clearer to you what's important to your story and what you can let go of. If you write your memoir honestly and skillfully, you will tap into a universal core of feelings that will invite your readers in, even though their life experiences may have been different from yours.

I hope this article opens a door for you, providing some encouragement to embark on the exciting journey of writing your life story. •

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Dranow. All rights reserved.

Ralph DranowRalph Dranow loves to work with people who have written something deep and passionate but feel that the writing is not quite there yet. With his writing and editing skills, he can help make the writing flow so that his clients feel their ideas and feelings have been given their strongest expression. More »

Updated 1/6/14