I have yet to find any real resonating reason as to why we cling so desperately to the past. On a species level there are fields such as history and archaeology where people spend so much time looking back and piecing together fragments of some former, distant civilization. Maybe in the hopes of unearthing some secret knowledge or power where we can best predict the future and ensure that we don't experience those dreaded past experiences of pain.
If anything that is the crux of fear I think. Fear of experiencing pain. Sometimes fear of physical pain but more so emotional pain. Physical injuries tend to heal a lot quicker than mental ones I've learned.
I don't necessarily think it's a survival instinct when we cling onto the past so adamantly as we do but I think on some deeper unconscious level there is a part of us that knows there is something of value from the past. Whether that be to measure how far we have come, mentally, physically, spiritually or indeed because we recognise similar feelings or patterns from a past event.
This notion of letting go and releasing the past isn't some profound trick or resolution into forgetting the more painful aspects of it but more so in realising that without the past we wouldn't be who we are and simply said, accepting the past as 'the past'. Everything in life is a reflection of our true power as individuals. The real power comes from realising that it's not what happens to us it is very much in that thing of reacting and choosing how we react to events.
I remember taking part in a mindset workshop a few years back where one of the biggest takeaways for myself was in a Victor Frankl teaching; 'all the events in our lives are merely neutral.' A simple collection of words explained so much. I've experienced quite a few challenging situations in my life, more often than not, completely at the hands of other individuals although in my unaware state I'd allowed to control my life. Some events have unfortunately left, deep, life-lasting imprints that I can never fully erase and even to this day I still have triggers attached to the memory of these events. Something I am learning and realising more and more as I get older however is that the memory of something is more often than not more extravagant than the actual event. In some cases, if we're lucky enough it is completely the opposite too. In certain situations I have even used these events, albeit subconsciously to justify certain characteristics and to excuse certain behaviour from myself and others. I've dragged painful remnants of those events into completely disconnected events and allowed the association of thinking those events were riddled with poison that it was undoubtedly reasonable to think they held sway over the outcome of other events. All it took was some mental jigsaw gymnastics.
Of course, I am never so naïve as to think, a simple collection of words can erase heavy wounds but in truth and reality it is through the association of a past wounding that we attach meaning and why can't we also attach meaning to a mere collection of words? There's such a horrid cliché phrase that probably has appeared on some 'feel good', 'uplifting' meme ... 'the past has happened, the future doesn't exist, all we ever have is the present.'
Yes I know but in that phrase there is also a gleaming pearl of Frankl's miraculous philosophy that helped save his mind from being completely traumatised by the absolute horrors of a Nazi war camp.
It is in the present that life happens. This is the only real way to release the past. It's to become so obsessive and complacent within the present moment of reality and to train ourselves into self reflection instead of immediate reflexive reaction. To reflect is to abstain from reaction. To reflect is also where our power truly lies. It's allowing that leeway between what could be an emotionally triggering event and what could just be another event. Most of the time we are never fully aware of an event until it happens anyway. The present happens so quickly. I do feel at times we may hold onto the past despite its uncomfortable associations because we actually feel some comfort from it.
As we confront the challenges of being self-aware individuals in a world often fixated on future aspirations and past comparisons, we shouldn't be so quick as to simply shy away from the past or find the best quick fix, band aid to forgetting it, but rather, in letting it be a sort of teacher rather than a master and in mastering the lessons, we become the teacher and master. I know so cliché and cringe but hopefully there's something that pings in your brain from this. Your past can definitely serve as a signpost of where you've come from but it doesn't have to be your compass. More importantly it isn't your compass especially if you feel like past events are currently dictating your life. You need to grant yourself the permission to see that those events have happened. They can't be changed but how you respond to them can change any moment of any day. Everything starts from within.
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