revised personal history

I used to say when a departing ex re-writes the relationship history, maybe in order to fit it better into his/her new life, or maybe for reasons the former partner will never know, the main thing is: Trust your memory of your own lived experience.

I still think that’s the best policy, especially if an ex begins the process of revisionist history before they’ve even left. And wildly continues it immediately afterwards. That can indicate a pathology.

I tell myself that it’s important to write some of these things down. I still think it is. Just be mindful and very aware when you do it. As a friend of mine says, just nail down the facts.

As odd as it seems, the processes involved in my court experiences helped me nail down the facts. I had to look at things with as much honesty and simplicity, but as straightforwardly, as I could. Some of it made me physically ill. Some of the paperwork took day upon day to finish because it was very painful.

Because it was a court setting and because this stuff can become part of the public record, I felt it was imperative to try to recall things as truthfully as possible. Because my kids and I had experienced varying degrees of gaslighting, I felt a responsibility to get it down as accurately as I could.

Not everyone does. Some because they simply can’t or will not go there. Others because they have a purpose for not trying to recall anything close to the truth.

And some researchers indicate that it’s a dicey process under the best of circumstances.

Neuroscientists tell us that people have a tendency to revise our remembered experiences as we look back, considering them. We end up with a sort of revisionist reality about our lives.

Obviously, this is one reason our storylines can vary from those of our trusted loved ones, over time.

When my former world broke into a million pieces, as I was feeling fragmented, I wrote a lot of it down. I’m not sure why it matters now. I think I was trying to make sense of all that had happened.

The fragmentation and dissolution of my then-life took place over decades. Maybe some of my remembered experience, even then, was being re-written.

I like to think of myself as straightforward and honest. Yet there’s a big flaw in that self-assessment.

While I was going through an array of experiences, I was rationalizing.

I was subtly altering those experiences so that I could remain in my relationship. Just for example, by Christmas time 2000, the marriage was done for. I refused to go there. By 2006, it was utterly shattered but I refused to go there even then. I had my reasons and they weren’t all self-serving.

Getting back to the psychologists and neuroscientists. They seem to think that we revise our personal histories in these subtle (or not so subtle) ways so that our life, our experiences, and our actions in the present make more sense to us.

I think the fragmenting and shattering of the last few years, for me, had as much to do with realization of my past as anything.

I think it can be good to sometimes write down the solid framework of our experiences as we go along.

It has been good for me, anyway.

I’ve lived long enough to have a fairly long memory. I’ve lived long enough to have revised a variety of times in my life, according to the brain-studiers.

When I’ve stuck with writing down what is fact, I’ve been able to go back and look with less revision. In doing that, maybe there’s less tendency, then, to revise what is remembered as truth.

I still say, if a situation has been abusive, write it down and continue to trust your memory of your own lived experience.

If you’ve been through the wringer, you likely may not revise the facts of your experience all that much. (Or you may, for self-protection, but that’s an entirely different post)

Photo: "Connor washing machine with motorized wringer." Circa 1950 photo by the Gordon Burt studio in Wellington, New Zealand.

Photo: “Connor washing machine with motorized wringer.” Circa 1950 photo by the Gordon Burt studio in Wellington, New Zealand.

This looks amazingly like the wringer washer my mother once used. It’s a little more decorative. I never stuck my finger in the wringer, although I did once stick a key in a light socket. I guess I was more drawn to electricity than to mechanical items.

I still am.

A few of my friends and maybe some students will recall my love for a Van de Graaff generator. I wish I had a photo, but nevermind, I do remember that.

Clip art Hewitt Drew It ™, Laserpoint, 1328 W. Palo Alto, Fresno, CA 93711

Clip art Hewitt Drew It ™, Laserpoint, 1328 W. Palo Alto, Fresno, CA 93711


About rainshadowfarm

I teach anthropology, am an archaeologist, a drylands agroecologist, community educator, and a single mother of eight grown kids. I currently own and operate an educational and research farm in the southern Mojave Desert, Rainshadow Farm. I'm 100% West Virginia hillbilly. Not necessarily in that order.
This entry was posted in gray divorce, Life changes, resilience and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to revised personal history

  1. Reticula says:

    I have done some revisions since my divorce, and I believe I revised to a story closer to the truth. All that gaslighting …. all that ego-managing … It’s not ideal, but what has helped me is that my kids now tell me things that I knew, but I denied for years. It was better to think I was the crazy one than to believe the truth, because if I had really really believed the truth, I couldn’t have lived the lie. I know you understand how much some of us want to spin the fairy tale with the happy ending. It’s so much better than the truth.

    • Yes! We’re living parallel lives. My kids make some things very, very clear to me. It’s good, I think, when they show me things they remember that show me I do remember things that really happened. I’d just decided not to look at those things for a while. Not very closely, anyway. I wobbled so hard between fairy tale and my real life for so many years. I was helped and not in a good way to live the lie. Right up until he decided to move out.

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