As we get older we have too much time on our hands to think perhaps, but I find in quiet or low moments I become prey to too many memories I would rather be without. And the longer you live, the pathway to the past gets longer, and the times you have faltered or stumbled on the journey can nag at the mind. Accepting that its too late for reparation – people are either dead or beyond reach – they may be serious enough to stand in the way of the future. Acknowledging that sometimes it’s other people who have helped create a situation not easily forgotten, the problem is still personal and sometime burns in the mind. I was talking with someone who is plagued by them. A catalogue of errors to which in conversation he frequently returns.
It would seem that George W. Bush has no such problems. His book is published today and although apparently he has regrets about some of his presidential decisions, he says he has no qualms about authorising the invasion of Iraq or the form of torture known as waterboarding which his lawyers told him was not against the law.
For him, both are to be judged by their purpose – in the first case to get rid of Saddam who was so dangerous to the West; in the second to discover plots that otherwise could mean the devastation and the destruction of life.
These were his decisions, he claims, and he was not unduly influenced by others apart from the support given to him by his close ally and friend Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister of the U.K. But all at such cost! Bush says that after his death he will be judged – and he hopes found guiltless. We don’t have to wait that long. For him to fail to regret such great political and moral mistakes must require some effort; to admit to them, even more perhaps.
So denial is one way of dealing with bad memories. For politicians, but also for ordinary people like the rest of us.
They either didn’t happen – those things that disturb our peace of mind, or they didn’t happen in the way they are remembered, or it was someone’s else’s fault, or time is playing tricks with us.
I think a better way could be to try and face them (the middle of the night is a bad time!), to retrace the moment as far as one can, to put it in context (what else was happening to me during that period of my life?); if it’s about a person who you feel was at fault, to imagine how it was for them at that time and, if, realistically, most of it is about your own bad decisions or behaviour, to forgive yourself.