From: L. Michael Hall
2023 Neurons #46
October 26, 2023
* This is my opinion and mine alone*
The Israel- Hamas War #2
A Psychological Solution
The Israel–Hamas War
GETTING OVER THE PAST
If the only way you can get over the past is to fix the past, then no one will ever “get over the past.” Freud began psychotherapy from the assumption that to deal with current neuroses in people, they had to go back to the past. They had to recall their memories of the past and correct their understandings and/or come to terms with whatever happened. But that does not work.
Such psycho-archeology doesn’t work for numerous reasons. First, even when you “know” that something happened, that in itself does not fix things. There’s thousands of people who have completed years in therapy who “know” what happened and still suffer because it doesn’t change anything. Second, whatever you remember probably did not happen the way you remember it. Memories are notoriously unstable. Today we know from neurology and the neuro-sciences that memories are constantly changing ever so subtly and without our awareness. Memories change every time you recall something and every time you we learn something new. Further, and perhaps most important, the past is gone. It does not exist. So there is no “fixing” of the past.
What we call “the past” are our memories and interpretations and various perspectives of what we recall. The same is true for families, groups, and even countries. The “past” is not what happened, but our interpretations of what happened. No “historical” record is true or right. It is a person’s or a groups “remembered history.” Such memory is both selective and biased.
A form of perpetuated neurosis is to live in the past always trying to fix it, correct it, make it gel with what you think and believe and want today. The truth of the matter: The past is done and over with. It is gone. And using your version of your “remembered truths” to force someone else to surrender to your version will not fix things. The healthy choice is to accept life as it is and move on. The healthy choice is to let go of the past, accept that there are multiple versions of it, and focus your energy and attention on moving forward. It is to ask, “What can we do today to make things better?”
That is the Psychological Solution that I presented in the last Neurons (#45). After publishing that, several friends and loved ones in the Middle East wrote attempting to educate me on the “true” history of the Palestinians. I even received emails about the “true” history of Israel. All such efforts are ultimately beside the point—if we are to move toward peace in the Middle East. To every one of the email messages, I said I do not want to spend time debating what did or did not happen, who started what, when, or how. That is an endless debate that goes nowhere, and certainly doesn’t resolve the current conflict. And even if there is a “right” side, so what? What does that accomplish?
The far more practical question is the psychological, behavioral, and pragmatic question. What are we going to do to move forward? That’s what I do in the therapy context. I want the suffering person to get out of “living in the past,” come into today, and start building a life for tomorrow. That requires acceptance. He has to “let the past go.” He may never “understand” what happened or why. And if he is convinced that he was unjustly treated and needs someone to own up to that fact, he thereby puts his mental well-being at someone else’s disposal.
Acceptance is the key because only through accepting where you are today, and what you have as resources that you can tap into, agreeing to disagree, can you move forward. So with nations. Only by accepting each other as fellow human beings, can we move forward.
Acceptance is what allows us, once a war ends, to acknowledge that bombing each other is not the answer. As long as Hamas has the goal of “driving the Jews into the sea,” and “destroy the state of Israel,” there will be no peace. That objective has to change to one of, at least, tolerating each other. Israel has made no declaration that the Palestinian people must all be destroyed. What they have said is that now Hamas, as a Terrorist organization, must be destroyed. Even the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that “Hamas does not represent his people.” He made a distinction between the Palestinians and Hamas.
Acceptance enables us to say that “what has happened has happened” what matters is where we are today and what we can do today to create peaceful relations. The opposite is non-acceptance. The opposite is arguing and fighting over “the past,” and trying to get the other side to submit to our views. That is not a strategy for peace. It never has been. That’s a strategy for violence. It doesn’t work between a husband and a wife; it will not work between countries.
Acceptance is the only thing that can then enable forgiveness. And it is forgiveness that empowers a person—and a country—to let go of the past, let go of hatreds, angers, betrayals, and everything else that we fight about. Acceptance and forgiveness was what Nelson Mandela preached and led in South Africa which prevented a civil war after he was elected. Is it easy? No, of course not. Does it work? Yes. And it is the only thing that does.
So after the war, I urge all NLP and Neuro-Semantic NLP trainers, go to Palestine and teach acceptance and tolerance. Go there and establish an NLP center wherein they can then enable people to learn trauma recovery, resilience, resourcefulness, love … and acceptance even for one’s enemies. That is the long-term psychological solution that will bring about peace in the region.