I remember my wedding as if it were yesterday. The joy I felt having my mom walk me down the aisle, the rightness I felt when we were pronounced husband and wife and the fun we shared dancing all night long with our closest friends and family. That was sixteen years ago yet when I think about it, I’m taken right back to that beautiful early October weekend, down the Jersey shore.
Reminiscing about positive past experiences can be joyful and as vivid as memories can be, the truth is the past only exists in our minds. Whether it was an hour or sixteen years ago, whatever happened then is no longer happening right now. On the flip side, reminiscing about or ruminating on negative past experiences, can be extremely painful and can keep you stuck.
As a psychotherapist, part of my job is to help people identify if past experiences are limiting their present. We identify traumas and process that pain so they can release harmful patterns that keep them from living freedom-filled lives.The purpose of drudging up old memories is to honor their injuries so they can move on.
It is easy to keep the painful past “alive” by thinking and talking about it. Sharing stories about a horrendous breakup or ruminating on your dislike of an old coworker does you a disservice by taking you back to those emotions you already experienced. I will ask clients who continuously ruminate on the past, if they would consciously want to re-live the hard times in their life, the answer is always “no.” But this is exactly what rehashing past painful experiences does.
Since establishing a new way of relating to the past may be confusing, I have compiled a few suggestions that may help below.
Part of the reason you hold onto the past is that you haven’t forgiven yourself or someone else. Forgiveness does not condone another’s bad behavior, it simply means you are no longer going to allow that situation take up space in your life.
The more you practice forgiving everyone (yourself included) on a day-to-day basis, the more free from the past (and resentment) you will become.
- Work with a professional
Traumatic events can make it very difficult to let go of the past. Whether you suffered through a life-threatening situation, abuse or abandonment, unless properly treated, trauma continues to impact your body and mind. Therapy can help. You can find modalities such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), hypnotherapy or traditional talk therapy to help you get unstuck and move on with your life. You can ask your family doctor or gynecologist for a recommendation or look at Psychology Today’s online directory for licensed practitioners in your area.
Inspired by my own transformation, I have helped thousands of clients and students create meditation practices. A dedicated practice can help you stay firmly planted in this present moment, which is where the infinite possibilities of your life exist.
Do you find yourself thinking a bit too much about the past? If so, please write “yes” in the comments. If you have a strategy that helps you stay present, please share it with me. I love to hear what works best for you. Also if you have any questions please ask, I’m here to support you.
There is only here, there is only now. It takes mindfulness to keep your head where your feet are, but you can do it. And remember, as always, take care of you.
Love Love Love,
*image courtesy of Kate Ter Haar