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Book Review on David Seamands'
 Healing of Memories

Rev. Wayne Dobratz, M.Div

Number 88

"Memory is the power to gather roses in winter." So writes an unknown author.  He is obviously referring to good memories. Prov. 10:7 tells us: "The memory of the righteous is blessed." Paul wrote to the Philippians: "I thank my God every time I remember you." 

Truly happy memories were Paul's roses in winter. They brought color and warmth to the damp and desolate Roman jail where Paul  was a prisoner when he wrote  this "Epistle of Christian joy."

Releasing Negative Memories


One of the main goals of counseling is to release the power that negative memories have upon us.  Dr. Seamands writes that many people are greatly tormented by memories that need healing, memories that Jesus can heal. 

While conducting a service for some emotionally disturbed people in a Kentucky Hospital, Dr. Seamands noted that many in his audience came from difficult backgrounds. The Chaplain had shared with him earlier that some had come from  poverty and unemployment; others suffered child abuse, were alcoholics or had known family tragedy.

To close the service, the Chaplain gave them the opportunity to choose a favorite hymn.  Many chose the well-known Appalachian Gospel song, "Precious Memories, How They Linger."  In the midst of their often overwhelming mental pain, they were making every effort to remember only the roses of their past.

When Time Doesn't Heal
 

There is a saying, "time heals all wounds."  Time heals many wounds, but not all of them.  Some need special attention. That's why Dr. Seamands has written books such as Putting Away Childish Things,  Healing for Damaged Emotions and  Healing of Memories.  As far as this reviewer can tell, his works are unique.

I have used these books many times in my own healing from the effects of growing up in an alcoholic home.  Believe me, time doesn't heal all wounds.  I have learned that some wounds must be taken to the Great Physician of our souls for healing. 

Dr. Seamands is like a referring Physician. He leads his  "patients" to remember times when they endured trauma. Dr. Seamands uses a gentle probe because he knows how sensitive these memory spots are. When the probe hits a sensitive spot, the emotions can often pour out of the flood gates. It is then that he leads the "patient" of the Great Physician in the "healing prayer."

Healing Prayers
 

The "Healing Prayer" is simple, yet powerful. It asks the Lord Jesus to take the frightened child of memory  into his arms for consoling. 

Memory, Seamands points out, knows no time clock. We often go back to these memories in a stimulus/response mode.  Many are the times when these traumatic memories cause the patient to respond to current similar stimuli with the power given to the painful stimuli way back in the memory.  This explains seemingly irrational behavior signified by the question "Where did that come from?"

The Lord Jesus "rocks" the frightened child within and soothes the damaged emotions.  Only He can heal in this way.  Repressed memories can later appear as certain kinds of physical illnesses, unhappy marital situations and recurring cycles of spiritual defeat.  Those affected describe it as being like the needle of a phonograph stuck in repetitive emotional patterns.

Help With Repressed Memories
 

One man, while reading Dr. Seamands book Healing for Damaged Emotions reported that he had tried every Christian discipline he knew, but simply could not figure out what the problem was. 

While reading the book, he felt as if the Holy Spirit had stripped off a layer of his memory so that he could remember some things that were related to his "broken record problem." There was no particular trauma; rather, it was a whole atmosphere, an environment with a pervading tone he had absorbed while growing up. And though he hated it, he discovered that he was unintentionally trying to reproduce the very same climate in his present relationships.

When counseling Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families I have found these people often dive right back in head first into the circumstances one would think they would try to avoid. And yet, children of alcoholics often marry each other and the destructive cycle begins all over again.

The man's story is a needed balance because not everyone remembers one or two particularly traumatic experiences. This man had a whole set of generalized memories that required healing. 

Needed: Trust Conditions
 

People who carry hurtful memories will allow them to come into conscious recall only under certain trust conditions. That is why an understanding and empathetic counselor is often needed, someone whom the hurting person can trust and who can lead him or her into the presence of the Great Physician, the caring and trustworthy Savior-God we know as Jesus.

It is precisely at this point that the Gospel is truly Good News--the incredible news of the understanding and saving companionship of God Himself.  We have a caring and sympathetic High Priest Counselor who has suffered everything we have suffered and more. Christ's sufferings on the cross for us and as us provide the most trusted conditions which enable the sufferer to bring those painful memories into the light of consciousness so that they can not only be faced,  but healed.

The creation of these trust conditions needs to begin with the way we present the Gospel, the way we divide Law and Gospel, and in the way we promote a trusting atmosphere of our churches. After all, we are to present the Savior who said, "Come to me you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." 

The healing promised in the Bible is not only for physical ailments. It is also for emotional hurts that often lead to physical illness.

Music: A Prescription For Healing

I have found that one of the most helpful ways to promote healing is to be familiar with the lyrics of contemporary Christian songwriters. Songwriters such as Michael Card speak so well to hurting souls.  One "prescription" the counselor can write is the frequent hearing of God's Word in specially selected lists of songs

Michael Card sings of this Healer of Broken Hearts in his song The Gentle Healer:

The gentle Healer came into our town today;
He touched blind eyes and their darkness left to stay;
but more than the blindness,
He took their sins away.

The gentle Healer came into our town today. 
He spoke one word; that was all He had to say. And the One who had died just rose up straight away. 
The gentle Healer came into our town today.

Oh, He seems just like an ordinary man,
dirty feet and rough but gentle hands; 
but the words He says are hard to understand. 
And yet He seems just like an ordinary man.

The gentle Healer He left our town today. 
I just looked around and found He'd gone away. 
Folks from town who follow Him they say
That the gentle Healer is the Truth, the Life, the Way.

Michael Card, "The Life", The Sparrow Corporation, 1988

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