In childhood, I had an experience that left me feeling unworthy, afraid, and burdened with a painful memory. For years I suffered from diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD – a problem cropping up frequently in the news lately, especially in stories of individuals returning from military service in war zones. Years of psychotherapy and medication did nothing to lessen the pain or diminish the effect of the memory that disturbed me.
Then, yearning to be free of this ball and chain dragging me down, I turned to God in heartfelt, silent prayer.
What came to me was a rather shocking realization: The only place this experience was taking place was in my thinking. The haunting memory was not a current experience; it was simply a current thought. A few years earlier, I’d started to study Christian Science. From this I’d been learning that everyone, as God’s spiritual offspring, reflects all the goodness that God is, and this was a solid, spiritual basis for rejecting troubling thoughts and claiming my freedom from suffering. Even though the memory’s hold on me felt very real, it had no legitimate power to hurt me because it was not part of my true, God-given identity.
I realized at that moment that the memory was a thought I didn’t have to nurture and hang on to as part of me forever. I could choose to discard it. So that’s what I did. I resolved to release it. That very day, it lost its hold on me. Within a couple of days, the sense of burden and pain was gone completely.
And after all those years, suddenly my sense of self-worth began to change because the starting point for defining myself had changed from that of a person weighed down by a horrible past experience to that of an individual living in the now, one with God, loved and protected by divine Love, always.
There wasn’t a long recovery or rebuilding process; I simply felt like myself, without the baggage of memories that had seemed to define me for so long. Internally, I was jumping for joy with gratitude to God and for Christian Science for bringing me this release from mental bondage. I saw the key was realizing that there had only ever been one reality, and that is the reality of God’s permanent goodness.
The spiritual lesson I’d learned is one that each one of us has access to: namely, that nothing from the past has the authority to disturb one’s peace, infiltrate one’s thinking, and define one’s present identity. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). To me, that means that each individual’s consciousness is stocked full with heavenly, Godlike thoughts. The kingdom of God could not possibly include painful memories. Instead, this kingdom of God – this infinite realm we all live in and where God, the divine Mind, is the supreme governor – is naturally filled with peace, security, and serenity. And no matter how traumatic a memory may seem, God holds your hand and guides you away from it and toward Him.
It’s liberating to know that one doesn’t have to wait for new experimental drugs, medical advances, or a certain amount of time to pass to let go of painful remembrances. We each have a choice, every moment, about what we entertain in our thoughts, and we can choose to discard thoughts that aren’t from God. Thoughts that are joy-filled and peaceful are derived from God and therefore are permanent and real. These are the keepers.
As we let thoughts of peace – thoughts of God – fill us up, our day-to-day experiences actually reflect this serenity. We become increasingly joyful and secure. Peace becomes the norm. Now becomes the only influence and the only reality of existence. And painful memories fade away.
Adapted from an article published in the July 6, 2009, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.