Juli 12, 2010

Letting Go and Creating an Alternative Narrative

I recently rediscovered the Zen-inspired message to let go of your sorrows, grudges, and plans from the past. I was touched, as I think it is a relief to get rid of pressures that indeed do not (have to) have anything to do with the present or the future. Yet, I wondered, what does it actually mean to let go? It means to put your past attitudes behind you, but you cannot actually let go of the things that bothered you. They do not simply vanish and they should not be suppressed. Instead, you create an alternative narrative to fit them into the story of your life.

When talking about reevaluating your past, the relationsship between parents and their children immediately comes to mind.

"Children may be 'episodes in someone else's narrative', as Steedman proposes, whether they like it or not; when children turned adults become the authors of such narrative, however, it is a different story, and the tables are turned. [... T]hey make someone else into 'episodes' in their own narratives. The ambivalences ... express an unresolved tension between relational and autonomous modes of identity" (Eakin, 1998 175).

I do believe that identity has to be defined in relational modes. Yet, everyone has to take up the role of narrator, believing in her power to influence her lifeworld, too. So when this sort of autonomous narration is approached, how do we get rid of the relations that detain us? How do we overcome the traumatic experiences of our childhood that were inflicted upon us by our parents?

I assume that it is exactly by becoming the authors of our own narratives, by evaluating our parents' actions with regard to our own personalities. Thereby, letting go of our past does not entail putting the past out of our minds, but putting it into a different - our own - perspective. This certainly means that we understand our own perspective as more valuable than our parents' perspective. Maybe, a compromise is possible if both parties are sincerely interested in it. Otherwise, it is necessary to reevaluate ourselves against others. This reevaluation is the actual process of overcoming, of letting go. I guess, what we actually put behind us are the others' evaluative standards, which we once valued above or as high as our own.

Paul John Eakin, "The unseemly profession - Privacy, inviolate personality, and the ethics of writing," Renegotiating Ethics in Literature, Philosophy, and Theory, eds. Jane Adamson, Richard Freadman, David Parker (Camden, New York, Melbourne: Camden UP, 1998)161-180.