The Healing of Memories
by Fr. Fio Mascarenhas
Each one of us has a vast subconscious area within the mind (it is like an iceberg, which is one-eights above water and seven-eights below). This area contains all the happy and sad memories of one's past life. Individuals whose happy memories outweigh their sad memories are sane and able to face life positively. Individuals whose traumas and hurts outweigh their happy experiences often become pathologically fearful and suspicious, and look upon life negatively. However, through what is called a Prayer for the Healing of Memories (or Inner Healing), people can be set free from fears, from guilt, from feelings of inferiority, and from all the negative things that bind them. (One can also receive inner healing in an ongoing way through cultivating a daily devotion to the word of God in Scripture).
Here is a true story about a missionary priest who has been working in India for many years, and has helped many thousands of people to experience the love of God. He shared with me one day that he himself had been blocked from experiencing God's love for many years (even as a priest), because of a childhood hurt. He discovered it in this way.
When his father died, he decided not to go home to Europe for the funeral. But several months later, when he was on home leave, he realized one day that he had still not visited his father's grave! So he began to introspect: "Why is it that I have not yet visited my father's grave? Could there be some block in our relationship?" But he could find no answer. Some days later, he participated in a "Healing Retreat". While praying over him, a member of the team spoke this "word of knowledge" (one of the charismatic gifts) to him: "I see you as a little baby falling into a pond and almost drowning. Do you have any recollection of it?" But Fr.X had repressed that memory, and so he couldn't remember the event at once. It eventually surfaced during his prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
He was one of fourteen children. When he was about a year and a half old, he fell into the canal behind their home. His mother, who at the time was several months pregnant with the next child, jumped in and saved him. But in the evening, when Daddy came home from work and heard about it, he got very angry, and scolded his wife for jumping in to save little X. What he meant was that, in her condition, she should not have jumped in, somebody else would have saved the boy. But the little boy, listening, concluded: "Daddy does not love me!" To make matters worse, whenever the anniversary of that event came around, the other brothers and sisters would tease him about it. So X got confirmed in his subconscious conviction, "Daddy does not love me!" And he grew up with that feeling. Moreover, each time he wanted more signs of his father's love, several of the other children were already around their father, claiming his attention.
After this root memory surfaced, the team prayed over X and, weeping copious tears, he experienced a complete healing - from that moment onwards, he began experiencing a new affection for his human father. Moreover, God's personal love for him was abundantly poured into his heart, by the Holy Spirit (Rom.5:5).
In this example, we see that, though over so many years of faithful ministry this priest had helped others to experience the love of God, he himself was blocked, because there is a vital connection between our "spirit, mind, and body" (1Thess.5:23), and the prayer for inner healing becomes necessary in such cases.
In the lives of many of us too, there may be an inability to experience God's love for us, or a block within us that prevents us from being the person that God has destined us to be. We may have many negative memories - if somebody has betrayed our trust, we may find that thereafter we cannot trust other friends; if we have been victimized because of envy, lust or anger, that too can mark us for life, and in some way control or influence our own responses in the future; etc. Our deepest need is for generous love and appreciation, and if we are denied this in infancy, we can become burdened with fears, inferiority, anxiety, anger, compulsive habits, etc. Our own attitudes to people may be conditioned by our hurts of the past. For alcoholics, it was recommended once upon a time, "Take the pledge; overcome your problem by sheer will-power!" But today we know that that is not enough. There is the need for the healing of memories, there is the need for peer-group support, etc., a whole process of healing is needed.
Likewise, in the sacrament of Reconciliation, someone may confess, "I constantly tell lies. Even though I don't want to, I find myself easily telling lies." If the priest merely responds, "Christ forgives you, go and sin no more", that is not enough to solve the penitent's root problem. To really help the person, the priest must help him/her discover the root cause of the problem: "Why are you telling lies?" Then, in what is called a dialogue confession, and perhaps also through using a charismatic gift, one may find that the root cause is fear, or an inferiority complex, rooted in the person's childhood memories. The full power of Christ's death and resurrection must then be brought to bear on the spiritual and psychological needs of the person, with absolution for the sin and with inner healing for the cause of the sin. Jesus can then truly say of this person too, as he did for Lazarus, "Unbind him, let him go free!"(Jn.11:44).
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