REPRESSED MEMORIES And another installment of CAREGIVING AND TMS PAIN from my friend Avis Carlson’s book IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME which has GOOD STUFF ABOUT JOURNALING FOR REPRESSED MEMORIES In her 80s, Avis, who wrote a column on and for senior citizens in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, wrote about the stresses of caregiving from her own and others’ experiences. Here is what she wrote on “Perceiving One’s Life as Whole.” Even though she wrote it aimed at senior citizens, her wisdom applies to all ages. It could be helpful to TMS sufferers who are coping as parents or caregivers of elderly parents. So much of her reflections apply to any of us in pain from our repressed memories. She didn’t know about the term TMS but what she says is pure Dr. Sarno knowledge and philosophy. Reflecting on our life as a whole can be a roadmap to effective journaling that can lead us into discovering our repressed emotions which can free us of pain. Avis writes: In the last section, we were talking about opportunities for growth and usefulness still open to us from the outside. We now will turn to the inside – to the opportunities for pleasure and growth through reflection. There are, I insist, such opportunities, and we ignore them to our peril. In old age we have for the first time a chance to think about our life as an evolved pattern, as almost a whole. Always hitherto we had to think of it in parts and as incomplete. [TMSers can also reflect on their lives thus far.] As young children we could not do much more than react to the stimuli beating upon us from moment to moment. In the identity crisis of adolescence we learned to look back on our childhood and make judgments about our parents and the effect they and the other circumstances surrounding us had upon our development. In the overwhelming need to grow up, we were apt to make harsh judgments upon both parents and the surrounding circumstances, such as poverty or lockstep schools. We might say, “If my home life and neighborhood had been different, I wouldn’t be feeling so boxed-in,” which is the almost universal plaint of adolescents. Sometimes, resentment and a desperate desire to break out of what seems to be the cramping cage creates a rebellion that the youth never quite outgrows and that leads to an almost total dependence upon peer groups for behavior guidance. Or he may become one of the fiercely independent, aggressive loners never fully able to relate to anyone. Later he may or nay not come to realize that his negative reactions toward parents and surroundings influenced his choice of vocation and marriage partner. If he makes unfortunate choices in one or both fields, his whole life may be badly affected, and its ambience may become one of regret, either angry or sad. Because hardly any of us ever achieves what we dream of in youth, most of us have carried through the harassed middle years a secret load of self-reproachful sadness, even of guilt. Or, if we happen to be the active, unreflective type, we may have kept ourselves too steadily on the run to think much about how our lives were shaping up. In old age we have at last the experience and the leisure to think about our life as a whole. And the necessity to think so of it, because how can we accept the fact of having grown old, of having already spent most of the coin dealt out to us, with nothing to show for it except a life that has been an assortment of bits and pieces instead of a meaningful whole? More than two millennia ago, Cicero proclaimed in his lofty rhetoric that “the harvest of old age is the recollection and abundance of blessings previously secured.” It was a good metaphor, It really does seem like a harvesting, a gathering in the fruits of one’s life – to look back over the years and see how this led to that and both to something else. That long ago illness, for instance, could it have caused a tendency toward neurasthenia? [A psychological disorder marked especially by easily being fatigued.] And how did the Great 1930s Depression, which fell upon us just as we were getting started, affect the later turns we took in political philosophy? How would life have been different if one’s father had been less authoritarian, or less permissive? Less easygoing, or less ambitious? And how did it happen that we got the right (or the not-so-right) marriage partner? How did that choice affect our whole life? What were our own most serious mistakes, and how did they happen? How did our successes, such as they are, come about? Did we do about as well as could be expected with our life, given the ingredients originally placed in our hand? She then writes about some of the “blessings previously secured.” But I will save that for the next installment. Did you recognize yourself (at any age reading this) having TMS pain that, if you journal about your childhood or adolescence, can help you to discover repressed memories or emotions that cause you to have pain today? And do her descriptions of childhood and youth remind you of your children today? As I have said earlier, while she wrote her book aimed at seniors, the wisdom is applicable to those of all ages, and can be especially helpful for TMS sufferers. What Avis wrote about children who are at odds with their parents for any number of reasons only the child knows rang home to me when I applied it to the grown son of my close friends who are now in their 60s. He is a retired lawyer and his wife a retired grammar school teacher. They both have been unable to solve the mystery of why their son argues with them all the time and rejects anything they say about anything. I’ll call him Joe, which isn’t his name. He is about 40 now, never married, But made a girl pregnant while on vacation in Jamaica. When their son was born he walked out on the girl and came home with the baby but left him in the care of his parents, even though he doesn’t get along with them. They took the baby boy in and have reared him through high school with love as if he was their own child. Still Joe does not appreciate the years of love and care his parents gave his illegitimate son. Maybe Joe felt insecure, that he could not live up to his parents’ expectations, but I don’t think they pressured him,. Their two daughters were happy children and both have grown into well-adjusted, happily married women. Why their antagonistic brother became such an ungrateful young man is anyone’s guess. Another example is my stepfather. He had to give up dreams of college In the 1930s Great Depression and go to work instead, as did his brothers and sisters, They didn’t hold that against their father, but he did. He held that resentment all his life and became a bitter man and an alcoholic to the end. He was unable to deal with losing his dream and it haunted him all his life, blaming his father for what his father had no control over. He may have had a lifelong inferiority complex because he never got to go to college, but he became a successful executive at a large company but felt he was passed over for a big promotion because he didn’t have a college degree. Yet, he could have gotten one if he had gone to night school while working. Instead he chose to nurse his anger at his father. I came to understand why he was bitter and angry but only learned it after I learned about TM and journaling. I put myself in his shoes and it brought me to understand him and, ultimately, forgive him for the years he made life very unhappy for my mother, sister, and me. Rest in peace, Leo. You did not make it easy to love you. Too bad you didn’t know about TMS.