“You can’t change the past but, with understanding, you can sometimes draw the poison out of it.”~Carlo Gebler
It never crossed my mind there could be a difference between knowing and understanding something. Now that I understand that, the depression is lifting, the light seems brighter, brain fog is clearing; yes, there is a difference between knowing and understanding.
I spent 50 years knowing I had been abused sexually, emotionally, and physically as a child, and then, too, as an adult. I ruminated on the details, the perpetrators, the scenes, and the dialogue–data stored permanently in my mind. That’s what knowledge is.
So, one wonders, or at least I did, if I know all these things, no repressed memories to unearth, then why can’t I move on? I’ve confronted some offenders via letters and phone calls, and I even wrote a memoir. Certainly, those things should empower me, lessen or eliminate the symptoms (i.e., low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, PTSD) that a victim of childhood abuse and sexual assault endure.
So how does understanding differ from knowing? Knowing is processed in the mind–that place where all the data is stored to ruminate on. Understanding takes longer to process, and it occurs in the brain. It not only needs all that “knowing” data gathered from personal experiences and education, but it needs your interest to break down, conceptualize, and analyze what you know.
In writing my memoir, like so many memoirists, I tried to make sense of my experiences and to understand them. I don’t think many of us come out the other side “healed” or feeling dramatically different (other than it’s enormously helpful to find out we aren’t alone in our experiences). I believed that writing what I know would bring understanding. I was wrong. I needed to reach much deeper, beyond the who, what when and where, and focus on what I didn’t care about when I wrote or ruminated: the Why. Why did these people commit a heinous crime against a child?
Understanding doesn’t mean to condone or forgive. It means drawing some of the poison out of the pain. The light just might shine a little brighter.
New Year’s Resolutions are like diets–once the reality sets in that it’s not going to last, and that you can’t make it a lifestyle, you QUIT. That’s why I don’t make resolutions anymore. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t look forward with anticipation to significant changes each New Year. For me, one who enters the Fall season with dread as holiday decorations go up in stores way too early, there is an impending sense of doom. I know full well that the ugly monster (depression) will rear its ugly head and nearly suck the life out of me. Like many people, the holidays hold memories of loss, grief, and just downright darkness. You can’t pray it away, exercise it away, meditate it away; and I know first hand, no amount of food will make it go away. Trying to resist depression only makes it worse. So, I sit with it as best I can. I used to believe it would never go away. I would ruminate about all kinds of solutions–which would have been a big mistake. I know now that, with time and patience, it does go away. (Not completely, of course, since loss and grief tend to linger, sometimes infinitely.)
So, January 1 is my time of renewal. Holidays are packed up, memories of loss and grief diminish. I fill my crockpots with healthy home-made soups. And boy do we need them during the freezing temps we’re having in the Pacific Northwest! I got out my yoga videos and meditation tapes. I’m already thinking about Spring.