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Jun 20, 2008

Leave The Past behind

When the nights are long and you cannot sleep for all the sadness of a past left unresolved; when you cannot grasp the future squarely and move on; when the past haunts both your woken hours and your dreams... you are in the grip of anxiety and inertia. There will always come a point at which you must cease to stay stuck in the past or it will define you and mark every step you take from now on.
Prepare to face the challenges. A past left unresolved will continue to haunt you if you don't address the underlying sorrow, pain and anger. You may not want to revisit aspects of what happened in the past but if you don't, you allow the part of your mind that conceals and glosses over hurts to dominate and instead of fully comprehending what happened and learning from it, you live in its grip subconsciously and let it eat away at you. If you cannot take a clear view of the past alone, seek professional therapeutic assistance to guide you.
Accept that you cannot change what happened. What has passed, has passed. It is not possible to rewrite the facts of what you experienced and went through. But it is possible to rewrite the way you perceive it and handle it from now onward. If you don't, your hurt self will carry over this pain into all new experiences and relationships, possibly poisoning them and dooming them to failure without any conscious desire on your behalf.
Let go. Acknowledge that you are living in real time carrying the baggage of old time. And then let go of it. Are you playing out a past habit in a current relationship? Does your fear of anger, loss, raised voices, silence etc. now set the tone for how you relate to others? This requires careful consideration to untwist the tendrils of who you really are and what experiences from childhood onward shaped how you react to situations. Most of us feel a deep inner core of who we are at best and we are capable of separating the triggers from the solid core of self if we sit still long enough to tease apart that which triggers our habitual behavior and that which is truly what we believe ourselves capable of being. Remove the past from your future. This simply means that you must learn to stop letting past experience morph into future probability. This happens when you have a bad experience and it immediately conjures up memories of where similar bad experiences have led you in the past. Instead of thinking positively and remembering the means by which you ultimately overcame these negative challenges, your immediate, habitual reaction is to transfer the bad outcomes from that prior experience and transform it into the worse case scenario for your current experience, with full-blown expectations that tomorrow things will only be worse. And with that comes the habitual actions, on cue rather than a series of chosen reactions defined by you as the person you are now.
Create a positive future. Combine the knowledge that you cannot change the past with the knowledge that you cannot predict the future but you can make sure that the person you are right now is strong, whole and healthy emotionally, so that any future negative scenarios are something the person you are now can definitely cope with, no matter what gets thrown at you. This is really about taking responsibility for yourself and how you react. Once you have faced the challenges from your past and accept that while you cannot change the past, you can cease to let it be roleplayed out every time a new challenge arises, you are beginning to remove the fear of more bad things happening as directed by your past experiences. Instead, you now learn to embrace the reality that the future is as yet unwritten and if you want it to be a positive and strong experience, the power lies within you to achieve this.
Take it slowly but surely. No overnight transformation will occur when you are trying to move yourself through past habits. It all takes time and you will only achieve the best and soundest results by allowing yourself time and space to move on. However, there are some simple and practical things that can help you to leave the past behind and, while largely symbolic, key into the mind-body connection aspect of our humanity and assist with your thinking processes:
Get a large box and throw into it anything that reminds you of a past failed relationship, a dead or missing person, a job that left you feeling sore, anything physical and tangible that hangs around your neck like a noose;
Decide whether this box should be tossed or stored. Either way, you are coming to a conclusion about its contents that they can no longer influence you. If it is a failed relationship or experience, it is often better to toss the box and leave the reminders to memory alone, which will be kinder to you than physical evidence. If it contains mementos of a lost loved one, you may feel more comfortable simply sealing it up and putting it aside, knowing you are doing this as the beginning of a journey forward.
Write down your feelings. You could write a letter to a person or people in the past who hurt you. You could write poetry or prose. Anything that allows you to let out the feelings and no matter how horrid you word things, let it out. You should not be keep this writing - it is simply a way to open up the emotional backlog and let out repressed feelings as best you can.
Revisit places where you felt pain and hurt. Go back and realize the power you have personally to not let that place get to you. This can be an overwhelming experience, however, depending on what happened. For example, survivors of concentration camps or sexual abuse are less likely to ever be able to face a place than someone who had a romantic experience somewhere but since broke up. Gauge for yourself how ready you are to take what may be a giant leap and take a buddy for support if needed.
Avoid rash decisions. While you are going through the healing process to strengthen your ability to deal with the past in a reasoned and distanced manner, keep aware of the triggers that will send you back to past habits. Actively aim to put a hold on habitual reactions and challenge yourself to do things differently, while at the same time accepting why you need to do this. This also means avoiding making decisions in haste that you may regret later, such as cutting off all ties with somebody in your family, or sending notes filled with vitriol to people or quitting from something you have been doing. While ultimately reasoned judgments that may include some of these outcomes might end up being the path you take, initially this exercise is about strengthening yourself to make calm and consequence enlightened decisions rather than making merry with curses and burning your bridges with no care for tomorrow. You do care about tomorrow - a responsible, thoughtful and clear future that is free of being controlled by past habit.