We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.
– George Bernard Shaw
8 out of 10 people who come to me say “Satish! My past is bothering me too much.” Like I say to everyone, I suggest them to let go of the past. Their reply, more often than not is “But, I do not want to let it go!”
People are actually capable of letting go of their past but most of them do not want to let it go. There lies the crux!
Now, the question is why do people not let go of their past? What is the reason behind why they hold on to it and suffer enormously?
Much has been spoken and written about the effects of the past and how to let it go. However the real issue lies in understanding why people tend to “NOT LET IT GO”.
Below could be some of the probable reasons from my perspective.
A Feeling Of Justice Not Met
One of my clients’ father was implicated in a false case by his own brother. He, being an honest and hard-working person had brought about the same practice of honesty in his family too. Getting implicated in a false case was a huge blow to him and his family. He went through several emotionally taxing legal proceedings. His so-called affectionate siblings backed out when he needed help.
Eventually, he did get help through his friends – those whom he had helped in times of difficulty and eventually the case was resolved. However, it did take a huge toll on him and more so on his immediate family, my client being one of them.
Now, I agree that it’s easy for anyone to say “let go of the past”. I did tell her the same too during our initial days of coaching . However, she was not willing to let go of it and kept on replaying the incident again and again in her mind. When I did touch this aspect during one of our coaching interventions, she said that she was not willing to let it go till she saw those who were responsible for it being punished.
The problem in this particular incident was that the past was painful but it had also made her sow the seeds of revenge in her and it served as the catalyst for her own negativity.
Like her, many do wait for justice to be served but it does take time and it will happen. However, in the huge time gap in-between, it is important to focus on other important aspects of your own life too and that requires letting go of the past.
The problem is that many do not understand that life is a much bigger picture and the past has a very small role to play. Never allow your past to sow the seeds of negativity.
This article by Melanie Greenberg, PhD gives more insights on the Neuroscience of Fairness and Injustice.
Your Past Could Actually Be Your Flipside
The flipside of a painful past could actually be a glorious future – you need to make it, that is all! Let me share with you the story of Dan Ariely. At the age of 18, Dan Ariely was trapped in a room that was fast becoming a furnace. He had two choices ahead of him – getting burnt to death or trying to escape by going through the flames. He chose the latter. The result? He did survive but had to spend the next 3 years in hospital having suffered third degree burns. The treatment process was very painful physically and also emotionally. This is when he started to look at life differently. He believed that big changes in life do change us as people. There were also long term positive changes in his life after the accident.
This made him choose a career path which he would not have done before – a degree in Cognitive Psychology and a doctorate in Business. He then became a Professor of Behavioural Economics.
Now, Dan Ariely chose to redefine his life from what happened in the past. That’s the reason it led to a glorious future.
Each of us will more or less have a troublesome or painful past. It may be easy to say “Get over it!” but get over it, we must if we have to move on in life.
Your Guilt Is Consuming You
This is one of the common reasons why people tend to re-visit and re-live in the past. The guilt from a possible wrong-doing. You may have committed a mistake, realized that it is a mistake and understood the gravity of it. The very next step commonly taken is wallowing in guilt with a feeling that suffering is all what you deserve.
Yes, it is indeed right to feel guilty but how long? If left unchecked, you may end up feeling guilty and keep beating yourself up for the rest of your life. Yes … it’s quite possible!
I would say, just snap out of your guilt factor and focus on how you can set it right as much as possible. You may not be able to set right the situation a 100%. However, 60-70 % is good enough!
There may also be chances wherein you will be able to make up for the mistake more than required.
It will not only help you overcome your guilt, but also stop your visits to the past and focus more on a better future.
This article by Guy Winch, Ph.D throws more light on the emotion guilt and its effects.
Your Conscious Mind Says – Let It Go! But Your Subconscious Mind Says – Hold On To It!
Fine! You have made a firm decision that you want to let go of your past and are trying really hard not to remember it. However, you are not able to!
Something related to the past, it could be – some statement which comes up during a conversation, an object you see, a connecting incident and so on may suddenly trigger the past bug and take you there.
Now, what is actually happening? Well! It’s this … Your Subconscious mind is triggering the past again and again. There is a possible conflict between your conscious and subconscious mind.
However, the good news is that there are a variety of proven techniques available to take care of the past at a subconscious level and one of them is burning your past in a sheet of paper.
Write down a past trauma – key points on a sheet of paper and burn it. See it go up in smoke. It works like magic. When you write down your thoughts, you are transferring it from your mind onto the paper. When you burn those in front of your own eyes, it works at your subconscious level. Practice this technique couple of times and I will guarantee that you will eventually get to see the desired results.
This video does throw more light on the two main aspects of our mind – the conscious and the subconscious ones.
Assumption That The Past Will Go Away By Itself! No It Wont!
There is a common assumption that the past being the past will go away by itself. It won’t! You need to work for it. You need to make yourself prepared to let go of it first. You need to understand it’s importance in your life and condition your mind accordingly.
Once you are emotionally ready, you can put it into practice using various techniques. You will surely get freedom from your past!
Remember that your mind can turn into a cage if left unnoticed. The past could imprison you forever in it’s hold. The sooner you understand this, the better and easier life does become going forward.
If you are someone who would want to win the battle against your past, then you can schedule a No obligation call with me to discuss about your area of challenge.
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To your success always …
Co-Authored By Sushma Krishnan (Co-Founder, High Performance Alchemy)