Overcoming the hold of the past is essential to moving forward into a present of happiness and fulfillment. Recently, I had a conversation with a friend of mine, and we were talking about how absolutely necessary it is to not take anything anyone ever says to us personally. She commented that while this may be true, it’s a lot easier said than done. And it’s another thing altogether, she said, when someone does something terrible or unspeakable to us.
Taking things personally keeps us locked in a cycle of misery and suffering. If someone has said something negative to us, or done something negative to us, we tend to keep that memory alive and well, allowing it to infer with our present day happiness. We need to recognize the past’s influence on our life and learn to let go of the pain.
If something has happened in the past we cannot change it. Wishing it was something other than what it was, causes continual suffering. Happiness requires letting things go. This is not about justifying someone’s terrible or unspeakable actions, nor is it necessarily about forgiveness. What we need to appreciate is that blame, hatred, guilt, shame, or anger, are all powerful emotions that require considerable effort to maintain them.
Think about that for a moment. If you were suddenly afflicted with amnesia and woke up unable to remember anything at all about the past ... how much more energy would you have to engage in the things you want to do? How much easier would it be to become the person you’ve always wanted to be and have the life you’ve always wanted to have? You would still be the same person—physically nothing would have changed—but you would have lost the albatross of the past from around your neck.
The essential thing to realize is that we are not our pasts. And we do not need them to exist. Our memories, good or bad, if erased would not stop us from living and being. It would just be different, a clean slate so to speak, to start again.
When things are said to us, or happen to us, we tend to lock a little bit of that experience away deep inside where it gets trapped in our tissues and in our cells causing dis-ease. It affects us because we take it personally. We own that misfortune, we own that pain. We believe the negative things we are told; we are trampled by the horrible things people say about us; we are crushed by the terrible things people do to us. These things didn’t happen to someone else ... they happened to us. Why? Did we deserve them? Were we weak? Were we stupid, fat, ugly, pathetic, clumsy, bossy, mouthy, or childish? The labels people use to describe us, or the reasons people give for mistreating us are just that—someone else’s labels, reasons, opinion, and judgments.
What makes their judgments, their opinions the right ones? Why should we believe what they said about us? Why should we take to heart what they did, and why they did it? Who are they to tell us who we are and what we deserve? They are ghosts from the past. They are phantoms haunting our present, robbing our happiness, stealing our chances at a bright, glorious future.
Don’t let them hold you back a moment longer. Take away their power. Let go of the past. Give yourself a clean slate by making the powerful choice to leave the past behind once and for all. Don’t merely survive, thrive!