The Treasure Chest or the Garbage Can?
I woke up early and put on my earphones to listen to streaming radio. A short news story I heard was on the topic of reminiscent therapy. The woman was reflecting on emotional and psychological difficulties being endured during the COVID pandemic. How are people coping with minimal human contact, the fear of becoming ill, the shut-down economic consequences, and other stresses?
To some extent, this touches us all, but some are more vulnerable. It's not just the elderly who feel loneliness, but young people under twenty-five as well.
Apparently, one way of coping is using reminiscent therapy. Going back into the past and remembering pleasant memories and milestones can significantly help modify our mood. Looking at photo albums brings a rush of memories, as do mementos, listening to old songs and singing them. Almost anything can be used to remind us of important times in our lives. I have made a project of scanning old slides and turning them into digital images to share. I've done that will old 8mm movies and more recent videotapes.
When my daughters were children, we had an 8mm movie camera. We took movies of our summer vacations, birthdays, and Christmas events. We loved when the developed movie reel arrived in the mail for us to view. Now they have those movies digitally and can watch them whenever they wish. I do the same thing and love it. I admit that it would be even better to view them with the whole family, but alas, this cannot happen just now.
I think these and any other way you have to reach back to touch unforgettable memories could be uplifting and celebrate your past. That is therapeutic.
I also know that any of us can just as easily go to the dark side of remembering. We all have sad memories, even tormenting thoughts around life's events. At times it takes a strong act of my will to reject going back into past regrets and focus instead on today's blessings. I don't think of it as a denial.
Let me tell you a brief story. A relative of mine and her husband had a little boy with a heart defect from birth. This was many years ago before the surgical procedures we now take for granted. At about the age of six, he died. That was very sad and would be today when we lose a child.
My cousin's husband could not let go. Many years later, their deceased son's image was front and center on the mantlepiece. Anyone who ventured into their home was told that no one would ever measure up to him or his memory. That's an example of how a memory can become a trap rather than a help.
We have our boxes of photos or stacks of albums. I have a large portion of my hard drive dedicated to pictures and videos.
It's up to you and up to me whether we delve into the treasure chest or the garbage can.
Here's something I've found helpful. If I find my mind wandering into memories that bring sorrow or anger, I've learned to short-circuit the process by listening to uplifting music. For me, that means tuning in to an online gospel music station. Those old hymns have a way of touching where we live. I also find I can rewire my thoughts by reading from the Psalms for example They are an excellent tonic to the brain and to the heart. What works for you?
Here is a short list of some psalms you could use.
Psalm 23 of course.
Psalm 121 and 131
Psalm 103 especially vs 13 – 18
Psalm 126 is a message of hope.
I think if you begin with these, you will be half of the way there.