I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “the past is a lesson, not a prison” or something close to that. Dang, why did it take me fortysomething years to figure this out? Well, not figure out but at least recognize it. My past has haunted me for as long as I can remember. I relive the poor decisions I made in my teens, the firing I went through in my twenties, and of course all the hundreds of bad parenting choices I made with my children from the time they were babies until this very moment.
Sometimes it cripples me. I live in the loop of replaying an event that is painful or horrifying. I live in it until I can shake myself free of the thought and let it go. It’s a painful and heavy thing to do but you gotta let that shit go. I physically shake my head to clear the thought. Sometimes it seems as if I have wasted a whole day. Unbelievable!
I want to know why the hell I stumble into a twenty-year-old memory. Now that I’m older, not gonna say how much older, I have the time to take a closer look. I know that living in those old memories is a total waste of my now life, and what I want out of it. I have found that a deep dive into my past, isn’t what I want to do, but in order to live my best life here in the present, I have to heal those old wounds. And that’s what those memories are, wounds.
Why Do We Hold Onto the Past?
I have to say, I have gone down the Google rabbit hole here. What I can boil it down to is this: Humans love to tell a good story. It has been important throughout the whole Homosapien ride. We pass down stories throughout our history. The need is deeply ingrained in our psyche. For one thing, it’s the way we make sense of our lives by the stories we tell ourselves, even if they aren’t always true. We fear and simultaneously seek to master certain life events that trouble us. So basically, we relive the past so we can try and master it.
Another reason we tell stories is they help people see patterns in chaos. Again this helps us make sense of the world. If our pattern has become scrambled, it could be a reason to keep seeking clarity in a particular past event.
I know when my current world gets too crazy, I seek familiar times where I had the answers. Or at least, I thought I did!
Laughed out loud there for a second. I love the idea that we can control or master what has already happened. I’ve been trying for years. Unfortunately, this has leaked into my now life. I used to try and control my whole world. My kids, my house, my husband. I brutally found out that the universe will make sure you learn the lesson that control is a farce! Slow but sure I have learned some of that lesson. Step by step my grip is loosening on things around me.
Funny, the ride is much more fun when you stop worrying and living in your past.
My family is learning to trust this new part of me and I bet if you asked them they would agree, the ride is way more fun!
So Now What? How Do You Stop Dwelling?
According to Lifehack.com, https://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/7-ways-let-the-past-and-live-happy-life.html there are several ways to let that shit go.
- Let the emotions flow. Cry, forgive, and let go. Of course this is easier said than done, but you have to feel it, sit with it to let it go!
- Learn from the experience. Try and find the lesson in it. Did you figure out something about someones nature, did you learn how not to do something? Did you learn more about yourself?
- Stop being the victim of your choices. This one can be a bit difficult. When you’re in this mindset, your self talk can become something like, “nothing ever works out for me” or “everything always goes wrong for me.” Try to look at yourself as a survivor, a victor!
- Don’t wait for an appology. I heard once, anger is like holding a hot coal and hoping it burns the other person. Your anger will not make the other person act as you’d like, so learn from it and let that shit go.
- Expand your view of yourself. Get to know yourself better and what you really want out of life. Maybe that old you who made that mistake is not the now you who has learned and moved on.
- Don’t let negative thoughts cloud your mind. Look for the positives gains you learned. Keep a thankful journal.
- Focus on living in the moment. I saved this for last because I feel like it’s the most important! There is nothing you can do about the past. All you have is today so don’t miss out on all the wonder it holds.
Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift! That’s why it is called the present.Oogway, Kung Fu Panda
Not to Mention the Health Costs!
In an article from BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24444431, the University of Liverpool did a study on rumination, thinking about the past, and found that it was one of the biggest predictors of common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. They also found that it determines the level of stress people experience. The more you dwell on your past and the pain there the higher your current stress level can be.
Rumination is called the silent mental health problem. It can become excessive and when it does you are losing your life one moment at a time. You can temporarily withdraw from reality, not engage in life now. This dwelling on the past can also play a role in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and some eating disorders.
When you dwell in the past you can become depressed and the more you dwell the more depressed you become. Women are more likely than men to do this. So it’s not something to just ignore. It affects your health to the core.
If you’re having trouble letting go you should really consider seeking out professional help. It’s never too late to live your best life.
Okay then, now that you know. I’m sure tomorrow you’ll wake up and just let that shit go. Well maybe not quite that easy, but maybe you’ll look at your past a little differently and day by day you will come to terms with it. Feel the feelings you need to deal with and then maybe one day you can let that shit go!
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