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Joy of Life Despite the Difficult Memories

By Dr. Stephen Fulder

To what extent are we controlled by our memories, and what price do we pay for that? Obviously we need memory in order to function and stay a healthy person, for example to remember that a bus on the road can be dangerous. However we often find ourselves wounded and scarred from our difficult experiences. Unfortunately we tend to build our personality from our painful memories, circling around them like a moth around a fire them, allowing them to take up permanent residence in our consciousness. We are not quite sure where they are, how they are and what they’re doing to us but we live and feel and act from them. Persistent anxiety is a good example; traumatic events linger, creating unhappy anxious adulthood which is passed on to the next generation who have to deal with it as well.

An obvious example is the memory of the extreme pain of the Holocaust which passes from generation to generation and also horizontally through Israeli society creating a national PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It sits in the subconscious and like the image of the elephant in the room, which everyone pretends is not there, it makes everyone behave differently, and reduces joy and inner peace. Instead people constantly move to avoid it and those (often young people) who shout: ‘hey, there is an elephant in the middle of the room’ are pushed away.

Israel has created a social and psychological icon from the Holocaust, which, like the elephant in the room runs as a ‘background program’ in the national psyche, a constant multi-generational narrative of the victim. And it has a toxic outcome - a lack of inner peace and steadiness arising from a hidden nagging hidden voice that asks: where is the next threat coming from? Maybe opposite but related narratives are also lying in the Germany psyche. Both people find it hard to fully acknowledge, face and take responsibility for these memories.

A story that illustrates the way such a strong cultural ic