We all have aspects of our past that we would like to go away. Painful memories is a natural part of being a human person in a fallen world. It does not necessarily mean that we had bad parents or that we are bad people, but the truth is that we all had to deal with the trauma of encountering sin in the world.
Often, this initial contact with sin leaves layers of lies and illusions which crystallize themselves into a false identity. To discover our true identity in Christ, we must learn to turn away from disordered patterns of thinking, feeling and desiring, and give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to open us to our true potential in Christ.
In order to help people understand how this transformation takes place, I would propose four steps that take place with the healing of memories.
The first step is that we need to allow ourselves to experience the grave disorders which populate our memories. In this way, we have to give time and space to simply look at the past with non-judgmental awareness instead of trying to force away painful memories with an iron will. In this step, we see and experience our past and allow the sensations to arise. In time, we will begin to see patterns that will lead us to greater freedom.
2) Process with Jesus
Having observed the sensation and the memory, we now need to invite God into the memory. This can be done with God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit. The idea is to engage our mind and heart in a process of walking through the experience with Jesus. We can also use our imaginations to picture Jesus in the scene, and such a use of the imagination can be a powerful catalyst of healing.
3) Listen to Jesus
Having invited Jesus into the scene, we now need to listen to what he wants to say. Such an art means that we must gently sift through the inspirations that arise, trying to discern that which is the work of the Holy Spirit and that which is not. In addition, a loving familiarity with the scriptures is essential in learning to discover the work of the Holy Spirit as divine revelation must be the foundation which informs our intuitions.
4) Let Go
At a certain point, we need to learn to reject the lies and the disorders that flow from painful memories. Having observed and processed the memory, there comes a point where we are strengthened to the point that we can say, “Enough.” Thus, we learn to move beyond the past, not by repressing the memory, but rather through addressing it and processing it.
The key in all of this is to recognize that prayer is the meeting point in which we present the totality of our lives before the loving gaze of God. Nothing is off limits as we learn to invite God into every moment of every day.