When I meet with my clients, invariably, it happens that couples will disagree on the unfoldment of certain events. Both can have a perspective that is different in terms of how they personally see it. When this happens, I like to dig further into what I call an emotional memory. What is that exactly? That of personally experiencing the after-effects of an incident on a feeling-based level. Recognizing each person’s perspective in this has often been the way out of determining who is right and who is wrong in couples therapy. By admitting differing realities, instead of judging who’s telling the factual truth.
Granted, that can sometimes be used against another person as a way to gain power over them as we have seen with gaslighting. But that is more of a defensive response than an actual way to work through mutual issues with each other. When both parties enter the therapeutic process willingly, with the attitude of bettering themselves overall, then it can simply be that both people experience things differently. I find that this is the case with some situations related to sibling estrangement. What is particularly painful for us is the notion of being invalidated with regards to how words and/or a situation affects us.
Acknowledging such memories is one of the most important aspects with regards to healing and harmonizing ourselves with sibling estrangement. To recognize that what the other did or said caused us to feel this way. One of today’s biggest misconceptions continues to be that by acknowledging another person’s reality, that we are somehow giving up and weakening our position. That is simply not true. As people, we are complex individuals, filled with nuance, and we can certainly look at things from different angles. Perhaps recognizing how an emotional memory can affect us can be a way to gain wisdom and reduce the emotional overwhelmingness that can occur within us. Even talking it over with a friend can be a way to gain acknowledgment and validation, whether our sibling gives this to us or not. An acknowledged emotional memory or perspective is the first step in empowering us. Do you have any of these sitting in your mental closet that need to be dusted out and addressed? Feel free to share in the comments section below.
Ali-John Chaudhary is a Registered Psychotherapist with offices in Ontario and Quebec. He helps clients going through sibling estrangement issues, and produces YouTube videos on the same subject, with author Fern Schumer Chapman. He also hosts an online support group on zoom for those looking to empower themselves with this rarely discussed subject.
One thought on “Emotional Memory”
Mostly I’ve been in too much pain with my sister to accept that her reality of shared experiences is her own, and as such, valid. Sometimes I’ve been aghast and angry, and yes self-righteous, at her “wrong” take on things. This article helps me to see that, even if facts are inaccurate, each person is deserving of being heard about their emotional experience and memory of a situation. Maybe she has never really been acknowledged for her feelings bu other family members—nor have I. While I doubt that my sis and I will ever have the mutual desire to dig deeper with each other in the spirit of healing and hopeful reconciliation, I do think that the insights of this article can further my own path of self-healing. Thank you Ali-John.