I wouldn’t take your pain away, even if I could.
“She heard him mutter, ‘Can you take away this grief?’
‘I’m sorry,’ she replied. ‘Everyone asks me. And I would not do so even if I knew how. It belongs to you. Only time and tears take away grief; that is what they are for.” ― (Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight)
I am asked, about once a week generally, if I can use hypnosis to help someone forget a former love. They want the entire idea of that person removed from their memory. Now, in theory, one could use hypnosis to do this.
You may have seen in shows, a subject put into a state where they cannot remember their own name. The thing you don’t really hear is that such a condition is very short lived. Especially when it comes to names – anything to do with identity – this is a very temporary state. The mind handles a few areas, including identity, sexuality and security, in a way that is very hard to manipulate.
However, the way we deal with relationships that go bad, or many other experiences for that matter, is something that we learn from. We experience grief and loss because we need to. We learn how to handle it, we learn what we need to from the relationship, and then we move forward – hopefully not making the same mistakes again.
To take the memory away, even if it were possible, would likely condemn the person to go right back into another damaging relationship. So, if we accept that when we experience the pain of the end of a relationship, it helps us avoid making the same mistakes again, we can see grief as part of a learning process. It’s not intrinsically a bad thing.
This got me to thinking, though, that in many aspects of life we are unprepared for the pain of these lessons. Instead we are encouraged to expect that life is great and everything’s going to be just great – and on the whole it is. However, wouldn’t we be doing ourselves a service to accept that life is not always going to be great. Sometimes it’s going to stink, but when it does we can manage. We’ll survive and come out the other side stronger. We’ll learn something from those hard lessons.
The way we prepare our children, and the way we ourselves were prepared, for life often overlooks the fact that for many people there really are going to be moments when life sucks. There will be moments of pain, and we should even expect that now and then. Life is not a series of joyful Facebook status updates… It’s just not like that.
In the middle ages it would be fair enough to say that life was hard and brutal. Sickness, plague and war were just the obvious things. There was also prejudice, poverty, physical, emotional and sexual abuse and any number of other challenges in society.
The truth is for many people life is still hard, life is still brutal and sometimes unfair. Many of the challenges have changed but are no less damaging when you are on the receiving end of them. Regardless, we will get through, and when the sun comes out things will be a whole lot better.
If there is a lesson we can share with our children it is that they are going to fall down flat on their faces now and then. It will hurt. But they will get up again and they’ll get over it, just as we did. The way we handle these challenges is what marks us out as people, not the absence of them.