Maybe it’s time to put the past behind you?
I did not have a problem that needed resolution. I had a situation that needed perspective. Tracy P.
Sometimes I have a hard time seeing past my past. Stuff happened that sometimes still haunts me and I find it difficult to move through it. Most times it comes in the form of unexplained emotional reactions or old beliefs that are entrenched deep inside my gray matter. It has become easier over the years, but some seasons can trigger more reactions than I prefer.
Life is meant to be lived by looking forward. I don’t want to spend my life looking backward because you miss things, like your kids growing up, being grateful for the people in your life, enjoying your work for what it is, and finding joy rather than the negative swirl of the past.
The past is not a real thing, not in the sense that you can reach out and touch it. The past is really not much different than a ghost. I don’t believe in ghosts like the ones that we see on TV, but I believe in the ghosts of the past that each of us may carry.
You can know that you are haunted when you find yourself stuck in rumination, having enormous reactions at little things, you frequently feel empty, you put arbitrary limitations on yourself, and your world is constricted and small because of a few terrible things that occurred a long time ago.
The past is not a real thing, but it can be very much alive within you. The past is alive in the form of memories, emotions and somatic responses within your body.
The past did occur and at one time it was real. Today, the past only lives in your memory, in the memory of the people who shared the experiences with you, and in a few of your photos. The funny thing is that when your past gets heavy and you reach down to unburden your suitcase, you find it empty.
You also carry your past in your emotions. You can see the ghosts in your emotions when you have significant emotional responses to normal situations. In everyday language, you freak out. You over-react and your emotional reaction is much greater than called for. These emotions are ghosts in the machine, signals that something is awry. Someone looks at you in a funny way, or they say something that you ruminate about all day, or you don’t say or do something and you carry regret for weeks, or a situation or person somehow trigger a memory or mood that lingers like a chained spirit.
You carry your past within your body. Your body holds soreness, stiffness, and other aches. It can also hold memories and emotions. Consider this quote by the International Institute for Social Change, “Our bodies carry our history with us”. Within the same article, the author refers to her work as a facilitator of social change,
Its made me, personally, look with more intentionality to my own family history, health maintenance, and sadly, about how it is that I too carry in my own mind, body and spirit the affects of stress, strain, pain and struggle that is due to reacting to and surviving though racism, racist practices and its ugly remnants.
You and I carry our past within our bodies. Our physical urges tell a story. At times, my urges seem to drive an insatiable appetite. Your bodies’ story may call on different urges for comfort that can also include starving yourself, over-drinking, self-injuring, sexual urges, isolation, or compulsive behaviors. Your body carries your story, your past. And like any ghost, you can become chained and bound to events that are filled with pain and self-torture.
Your past is not a problem, merely a perspective.
Problems are real and they can be solved. Your past is much different. It is not real and it can never be solved. That does not mean that you are stuck with the past, on the contrary, you have already worked through most of the difficult aspects of your past. Most times, it comes naturally. You work out your past every time you have a vulnerable conversation with a friend, create something out of frustration or pain, or you work feverishly out of anger or irritation.
When I am making pancakes and I realize I am out of eggs, I solve the problem. I go to the store or I borrow an egg from a neighbor. But when the past comes up in the form of memories, emotions or physical reactions, I can’t reach for an egg or go to the store. But you and I do just that, every time we use shopping or eating or TV or exercise or religion or education or sex to try and solve our emotions.
The past is a perspective, not a problem to be solved. This is a brilliant quote by a friend of mine, Tracy. If the past is a perspective, we can choose a different one. In reality, we probably need more windows in our homes than screens that use Windows. A window can give us a different perspective and help us to engage life differently.
Sometimes we need professional help, but the help that we need is not to solve past problems. We really need to see our present, and our future with fresh eyes rather than through foggy ghost-filled glasses.
If thinking, feeling, or sensing more and more about our past is not the ‘solution’ then how do you gain a new perspective? You may need some therapy, some intentional journalling, meditation or some good friends. Each person has their own path. It makes sense to me that if ruminating about the past keeps me stuck, then intentionally reflecting on the present day and the future is part of building a new perspective. Where we invest our time and our resources, that is where our attention will be.
Maybe you can build a little perspective by building time into your day for exercise, for meditation or for other forms of self-care. Reflecting on your goals and personal dreams can also help to move your forward. Or maybe just get out and live your life, because living a life that you enjoy, that challenges your comfort zone is the greatest way to silence the ghosts.
Your life is much, much more than your ghosts. The story they want to tell is a small story filled with negative rumination and fear. You are bigger than that. Healing is within you. Perhaps today, it is time to stop fixing and trying to solve your past. Instead, look for a different perspective, a fresh way to view yourself and your present and future.
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Keep it Real
Photo courtesy of smswaby.