I suppose that this blog, which follows on from Broken Links, should have a picture of a mended chain. It does not have such an image. The one I have chosen reprsents an idea about Salvation history or Sacred history. The link between theses two pieces is the idea of continuity. George Santayana observed “Those who cannot remeber the past are condemned to repeat it.” And in a similar vein, Kierkegaard said “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.
As a psychodynamic counsellor, I am particulary interested in people’s past. In here one finds the beginnings of a number of problems and difficulties-as well as successes and triumphs. I’m still surprised at the number of times my patients say something like “But that’s in the past.” As if the past has no bearing on the present. Frequently the people who use this phrase are also the ones who, eventually, will talk about their past being buried in the cellar. Or put in the shed at the end of the garden. One of my patients spoke of putting his history on the dark side of the moon-somewhere dark, cold and lonely. (Which was his experience of the history he had put here.) what we also come to see in the process of therapy is that, sooner or later, one runs out of storage space. The cellar does not contain an infinite amount of space. One can only build so many garden sheds before running out of garden!
The phrase “salvation history” comes from the German “heilsgeschichte” and is originally a theological term. It seeks to convey the notion that God may be seen in human history, working towards a process of Redemption and Wholeness. In counselling terms this translates into helping people redeem their own histories .So rather than filling up emotional sheds, cellars and attics one can find healing. And re-claim the past.
Which is very easy to write. Much harder to do. It is about valuing our shit. A small child produces faeces as a gift. It is formed inside them. They “choose” to give them away. Or to hold onto them.(Hence some of the battles around potty training. Shit is valuable to a child. Faeces are one of the relatively few things it can control.) Eventually faeces lose this meaning and are relegated to a fairly straightforward physical process-although de-faecating is never entirely void of signifcance.(Consider the images that use shit. A person is anally retentive. Someone shits on an idea. We ask “Are you shitting me?”)
T.S Eliot wrote in Burnt Norton that
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past”
By denying our past we risk denying both our present and our future. And leave ourselves with broken links that threaten our continuity and security.