Remembrances of Things Past

Did you ever have the experience of returning to the house where you grew up? If so, did you have the experience that the house and its rooms were much smaller than they seemed when you were a child? Did you remember the backyard as very large only to discover, as an adult, how small it was?

There is a case study of a man who decided he wanted to visit the old neighborhood when he reached the age of sixty. He had several reasons for wanting to do this. For one, he had nostalgic feelings about the old place. When he and his friends got together, there was a tendency to reminisce about life back then. The theme was about the “good old days” and how those were the best times compared to the world now. He hoped to recapture memories of his parents and extended family. Maybe just turning seventy-five was reason enough for wanting to go back.

However, the outcome of his visit was not good. The old neighborhood was gloomy and narrow. The old friends no longer lived there; his parents and grandparents were gone. The neighborhood felt like an empty shell of what he remembered. He remembered that this was why he moved away and onward with his life. He returned feeling depressed and empty and vowed never to do that again. 

He realized those were not the “good” old days, but the “good” days are right now. Maybe, for some people, memories are better than reality. Indeed, the saying, “You can’t go home,” is true, at least for himself. If there is any concern about violating confidentiality, that man is me.

There are three reasons people visit their childhood homes:

1. They have a wish to reconnect with their childhood. Because many things from the past are forgotten, there is a hope that, by returning, they will recapture essential memories.

2. Some individuals going through a crisis or problem need to reflect on their past. They want to reevaluate how they developed their values and what led them to make their decisions.

3. Because of having lived through abuse and trauma or having suffered from some abuse or trauma, there is a hope that by returning to the site where these things happened, they can both find closure and leave with a sense that they have healed.

 People romanticize memories but soon discover nothing was romantic about the places in which they spent childhood. If they were happy there, they could not recapture that happiness. For those who experienced abuse and trauma, the visit brought back pain rather than closure.

Too much time is spent living in the past or worrying about the future. A consequence is that we cannot appreciate it now. As Thich Nhat Hanh, the great Buddhist teacher of meditation and mindful living, points out, we will never have this moment again, so live it, experience it, and be in the moment.

How many of us sit around during the holidays and listen to stories shared by your loved ones, such as grandparents or parents? Have you witnessed the emotions expressed by your loved ones? Listened to the details of the story? Even if you have heard the story before, you need to be an attentive listener because reminiscing serves a purpose in older adulthood.

Marriage and the Blame Game

Playing the Blame Game

There is a joke that captures many problems experienced by couples during an argument. A man complained to his therapist that his wife was awful and that he had a bad marriage. The therapist told him it’s not just his wife’s fault; he has to look more profound because it takes two people to create a toxic relationship. The patient cried out, “I knew it! It’s the fault of both her and her mother!”

Relationships and The Role of Mutual Blame

What is essential to understand about mutual blame is that it never works. During an argument, couples blame one another for mistakes made in the present time to those from many years ago. Usually, in an argument, a couple engages in the process of mutual blame. Once that happens couple becomes defensive and angrier than at the start. Being told you are to blame for something is being told you are incompetent, at fault, and lacking. No one wants to feel backed into a corner and forced to confess to being wrong.

Because everyone’s pride and ego are involved, it becomes necessary to prove the other person wrong and then blame them. Even knowing they are to blame for something, a partner will deny they are responsible. He probably was asked to buy a milk container in the case above. However, because they were amid an argument, he probably denied that he had forgotten and blamed her.

The nature of relationships is such that everyone is at fault because everyone contributes to the problem. People in a relationship impact each other in dozens of ways. That they affect one another provides an easy reason to engage in blame. In reality, it is rare anyone is totally to blame for many things.

Intimate relating means that interactions are going on between two people who have a history and a future together. Interaction does not mean that one partner caused something to happen to the other. Each individual handles their behaviors separate from the other. For example, if I had a bad day, it does not mean that my partner caused it. Another example might be that “I withdraw from interacting because of your criticisms” means, “I feel like I want to withdraw when I hear criticism.”

An age-old example is “you gave me a headache.” In reality, I have a headache.” Why blame it on another person?

In the end, it is better, when in a conflict, to find solutions to the disagreement. Sometimes it is as simple as finding a better way to phrase things. Communication means listening first and then responding in non-defensive ways. For example, using the pronoun “I” when speaking is far better than the accusatory “you.” Also, “why,” as in “why do you,” is accusatory. It sounds much better to say, “I am so angry that I got laid off that I want to blame everyone.” Another example is to say, “I wish we could find a solution that you would find acceptable. The choice of words is always important.

In a permanent relationship, the goal should not be to win an argument at the other person’s expense, not if you value that person. In close relations, winning an argument can mean losing the relationship.
Rather than blame, find solutions.

Self Awareness:

Self-awareness means that each partner in the intimate relationship believes that a problem is a combination of “some things I did wrong” and “some stuff you did wrong.”

Self-awareness means the couple can catch themselves as they fight back or run away and try again to listen to the feedback with an open heart.