Trouble with your Past? This will help

If you are like most people I know, myself included, you often find yourself thinking about the past.  At times, this remembering turns into a pit of despair that sucks you in without your consent and leaves you mired in the murkiness of bad decisions for hours or perhaps days.

Dealing with the past can be accomplished in any number of ways:

  1. You could play the ‘what if’ game and tediously go through every possible choice you could have made at the time and then follow those through to what could have been possible outcomes.
  2. You could play the ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’ game and spend countless hours figuring out what you should have done, what you would have done, and what you could have done and use this as a reminder of what you should do in the future
  3. You can write down what happened and your feelings about it or tell someone what happened and your feelings about it – sometimes just letting it all out helps you to fully move on from the past
  4. You could collaborate with others to combine your memories of the same event to get a more thorough view of what actually happened and maybe that will help you cope with it

-or-

You could do something more useful.  You could accept whatever happened – that means accepting your old feelings, accepting the actions of others.  You don’t have to approve of your old feelings or the actions and feelings of others, just accept that they happened.  Acceptance is a huge but necessary part of letting go of the past.

Somewhere in your mind you may hold on to the belief that if you just hang on to those old terrible memories, that by some magic, what happened in the past will change.  You will change how you handled things, how others handled things.  You will make right what was wrong.  What happened to you will be undone, in fact, it will have never happened at all.  Sound ridiculous?  Of course.  You cannot change the past for the simple reason that it has already happened.  No amount of ruminating on it, wishing on it, feeling bad about it, feeling angry about it or refusing to accept it because it was wrong, will change anything.

Let the point fully sink in:

Nothing can change the past.  It’s over.  You cannot go back.

And therein lies the good news.  You cannot go back.  Nothing in this world can pull you back in to the past and to the trying times found there.  You will move on because you must.  You have no control over this, the sun rises and sets whether you want it to or not.

You do have control; however, over what happens now and what will happen in the future.  Every moment of every day you make choices which shape your future. So put a lot more thought into your current actions and a lot less effort into changing the past.  What you do today will become your past.  Your only chance to control the past – is when it is still now.

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7 thoughts on “Trouble with your Past? This will help

  1. I enjoyed this post. I thought it was interesting when you suggested to bring people together to discuss different point of views. In some cases this might help initially when dealing with the past in order to see the bigger picture. I guess that would be a part of “talk therapy” to a degree to help process it all. But after a while, going backwards and going over and over it in your head or out load is not healthy. It’s easier said than done, but we can really learn from our mistakes and from the situations we were in at the time. I try to remind myself that everyone (including myself) did the very best that they could with the knowledge, resources, and where ever their mental state was at the time. From there, you release it and eventually it gets better, less painful. Acceptance can be freeing.

    • I find that listening to other people’s memories of an event we were all part of offers a perspective that I personally didn’t have because at the time I was so stuck in my own head. The perspective, for me at least, allows me to accept things and move on.
      As for learning from mistakes – absolutely – it is a necessary part of being the best we can be, my point in this post was more to address those people who have already learned all they can from their mistakes and yet still find themselves rehashing old mistakes over and over again, never letting go.

  2. I certainly shouldn’t worry about the past; as you say it’s gone, dead and buried. But no harm to reflect on some good things that you did. If you are really worried about past mistakes turn them into stories in a different setting, a different time or place, or with different outcomes. And keep your sense of humour. I have found insights and revelations that I never realised at the time, and it does lead to acceptance.

    • I think there is some research now into going back to past memories and ‘changing the outcomes in your memory’ to alleviate the symptoms of PTSD or other debilitating current conditions due to past emotional trauma

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