Psychological Necromancy: Reanimating the Past

I’m re-reading the Dresden Files which is one of my favorite series about a snarky, wise-ass, wizard, private investigator who solves supernatural mysteries in Chicago. Looking for a fun, oftentimes hilarious, read? I definitely recommend it. I have Dresden to thank for this blog post and the term psychological necromancy. What’s it mean?

Psychological Necromancy: Dredging up old memories of people, relationships, and things said to you for the purpose of torturing yourself.

All of those things that we haven’t dealt with in the past and all of the mistakes we’ve made? We pull them out of the past where they should be dead and buried and we re-animate them into a Walking Dead-style horde of would-haves, should-haves, and could-haves.

We replay the hateful things our exes said.

We tell ourselves that we deserved it or that we’ll never find anything better.

We use our memories and experiences to punish and hurt ourselves.

Sometimes it’s an accident and something we can’t control triggers it, sometimes it’s a bad mood, and sometimes we just want to hurt ourselves for the mistakes we’ve made because we’re playing that wonderful game of let-me-remind-myself-how-much-I-suck.

I am a huge believer in the wisdom of the mistakes of the past, I wouldn’t be who I am without a truckload of mistakes. Looking back we get to see how far we’ve come. The past is a story that we can read to learn a lesson. Sometimes we need to read it twice (or more) for the moral of the story to sink in and for us to truly learn from it.

But what about when we’ve learned the lesson but we keep re-reading the story?

We’ve changed the behavior, made amends or attempted to, learned the consequences of those actions, and yet we still relive the situation in our minds. We can’t let it go. We wear our pain for so long that we forget who we are without it.
There’s no use to it, nothing good comes out of it, and at the end of the day, all you’re left with is a bad mood and a burden of regrets.

The past is a map of where we’ve been and we get to learn from it. We get to cross those places off on the map with the knowledge that there are better places ahead and we are better equipped to handle them.

I’ve been guilty of re-animating the silliest thoughts. Thank you anxiety for reminding me of that time I was at the movies and told the usher to enjoy the movie too. Such a little thing that so many people do becomes this tiny dagger of “OMG, you have no social skills. You are so awkward. You suck.” And then there are the bigger things like hurting people and choosing toxic relationships.

I’ve learned how to work through those things. Emphasis on the word work.

The ABCs of combating psychological necromancy.

Accept that the past does not define you. You get to make better choices. You get to rise above it and be something better than what you were before. One of the hardest things to accept is that I am not that person anymore that made those mistakes. And for those little silly things? I’ve got to accept that I’m human and everyone has their moments of social awkwardness.

I also accept that as a human being and I’ve had some pretty epic screw-ups. I’ve made some terrible decisions, and I can forever beat myself over the head with that and learn nothing new, or I can accept that it is part of me, but it is also part of the past.

Be in the present and remind yourself where your path is leading you and where you are going. Ground yourself firmly in the present and in the now. I think of it like I’m driving a car with wonky steering that keeps drifting to the left – I need to constantly course correct and get myself straight again.
When you start feeling yourself drift back toward those skeletons, pull yourself back. Direct yourself away from those thoughts and remind yourself of the present.

Commit to actively working through it. If re-directing isn’t working it’s time to face those feelings and work through them again. Sometimes we think we’ve learned everything we need to learn from a situation but there’s that one tiny piece missing. I’ve usually found that piece to be forgiveness.

Sometimes the best way to commit to dealing with those old wounds to slather love and healing on top of them.

Do you find yourself dredging up the past? What’s your usual go-to method of dealing with it?