Are You a Prisoner of Your Past?

Negative past experiences, disturbing memories, unbearable hurt… All of us have ghosts in our past, things we did wrong, memories of others who wronged us - and it’s a great thing to have lived it all, to have experienced it: it enables us to learn, to push beyond our limits, and to grow…

But some stay stuck. Some people, consciously or unconsciously, make the choice to live in their past, to re-live it over and over again, and to let it define their present and their future.

And, instead of growing and creating a better future for themselves, they stay linked to that point in their past, sometimes forever.

Could this be you?

How do you know if you’re stuck in the past?

Think about these:

  • Do you feel haunted by memories, especially unpleasant and inconvenient ones?
  • Do you sometimes feel ashamed when you remember something you did, or something someone did to you?
  • Are you noticing that these memories limit you from utilizing your full abilities - for example, fearing that your action could make you hurt?

There are 3 main ways we stay enchained in our past:

1. Holding on to bad experience

You probably know this one: re-living an unpleasant event over and over again, which can be useful up to a point, but beyond that, constantly reminding yourself of an injury just disrupts the natural process of healing.

The purpose of each experience is to learn something from it, so when you do, let it go, there's nothing more you can get from it.

2. Experiencing guilt over and over again

Things that took place in your past must be evaluated against your understanding at THAT point of time, not at any later one. We learn from moment to moment, growing wiser with each moment that passes by.

So whatever your past shame is about… you’re wiser now. It’s OK to forgive yourself.

3. Not recognizing the pattern

Do you know what a self-fulfilling prophecy is?

For example, you may have been bullied as a child, so you’ve “learned” that you’re weak, that you’re the victim. So in any unfamiliar or threatening situation you resume that role - being weak, showing that you’re the victim… confirming your belief and locking yourself in that cycle.

It takes some soul searching to recognize where your pain points are and how they may damage your current relationships, but it’s well worth exploring. Because once you get to know your chains, you can break free from them.

As long as we hold on to a past trauma, we tend to get attracted to the similar situations, until we resolve it - the same type of relationships is a great example of how this works.

The only real way to grant yourself a happy and fulfilling future is to shake the past off and to focus on the present moment in order to plan the future you want . The past has its place in your life, but it’s no place to live in.