There is a great principle in the psychotherapeutic world of narrative therapy: “It was as you remember it.” Often in life we search for the truth of what happened when in reality it doesn’t matter at all.
Studies of cognition and memory suggest that our existential reality is an emotional mixture of experiences that have dotted our history. This is in contradistinction to the idea that we are a result of what happens to us and how we respond. The latter position is based on facts, the former on experiences.
The reason we believe certain things about people is often because we have an unexplained and immediate physiological and emotional response to them. We can’t necessarily pinpoint the exact reason for our feelings, only that we know them to be true. We then try to justify our positions by pinning rationalisations and reasons on them, but this is a futile activity.
Our experiences are our reality; we don’t base our feelings on facts of history but rather on our experiences of those facts. For example, if you think of your childhood, it may fill you with positive memories of family holidays, schoolyard banter and a sense of bliss. Alternatively, it may have been a time of terrible pain, poverty and bullying. What doesn’t matter is how it actually was, but rather how you remember it.
If you remember it as a blissful time then it doesn’t matter if it was actually a chaotic time. Your reality was bliss. Our experiences govern our reality.
If I felt victimised by someone, it doesn’t matter what that person actually did; my feelings will dictate my reality. ‘The reality’ and ‘my reality’ may be completely different and in truth all that matters is my reality.
The spies feared the land of Israel and its inhabitants and they felt intimidated, insecure and unsure. That was their reality. The fact that “Hashem will guide our victory” and that we had seen so many miracles in Egypt mattered little − their experiences governed their reality.
Mending ruptures in our relationships necessitates that we don’t look to the history of what happened, but rather at the history of what is remembered. After all, it is that which will dictate any movement in the future.