I was having a discussion with an old friend about the past, and the subject of the neighborhood bullies came up. There were four guys in our neighborhood who could be counted on to make your life miserable. The two worst had a cop as a father. My friend became pretty worked up as he recounted getting roughed up by the brothers. I understood his rage, they were bigger than the kids that they terrorized, and they seemed to get away with it all.
I pointed out that in the end they really didn't get away with anything.
One brother left to live in the Midwest, never to return. His older brother became a heroin addict. At one point he was passed out in the backseat of a car while his friends were burglarizing a house. They ended up murdering the home's owner with an axe. So the brother became an assessory to murder and did time in prison. It took years for him to get clean, and today he lives a simple life.
I had forgiven them for their crimes against me years ago. I had a realization that I had no clue what it must have been like to grow up in their home with their father. It couldn't have been that great if one son fled the state and the other dulled his pain with narcotics. Not that it justifies their stupidity, but there was most likely an explanation for why they did those things.
See, what people need to understand is that the past is something that exists only in their minds.
As I was emotionally cleaning house, I found that I was holding onto hate and anger over things that had happened 25 years before. I had to really think hard about why I was still holding onto those negative feelings, and how was holding onto them effecting me? Was it helping me in any way? The truth was no, they were not. Some of the process was involuntary, those feeling were something that I had just stored in my brain, and eventually had become part of my operational approach to life. When began to re-evaluate those old wrongs I found that the only reason that I had kept those thoughts in my head was that they helped justify my questionable behavior. I was easier to go through life doing a half-assed job when you feel victimized. The fact was that while some of the things that the brothers had done were bad, they weren't THAT bad, and that the feelings that I had surrounded those events with in my memory had taken a life of their own.
In short, I was being willingly held prisoner by phantoms of my own design.
So once I had figured all this out and let go of the anger the phantoms disappeared for good. I have to admit, it is one thing to be liberated, but it is another thing to free yourself from your own mental filth. So every once in a while since those days in the early 1990s, I stop and take stock of my various motivations to see what I can cut loose. A regular house cleaning. I am often surprised to find that there are still things floating around deep in the old coconut. I find that letting go of thoughts that don't work is keeping me young.
It feels good to be free from my dark side.