Why do we remember the past?
If we are capable of doing something, then there must be a reason behind it.
The past can hurt, or it can heal us and the difference lies behind the way we see it.
More than that, one cannot truly follow the right path without connecting the dots backward. That requires facing who you are regardless of how painful it is and figuring out your purpose in life.
The brain always brings forth past memories, mistakes, painful events, and traumas because it wants us to complete a puzzle. You can consider this as crying out for mastery.
We somehow go through life and certain things happen to us, and mostly they are out of our control. The brain tries to get in touch with us for a new discovery about what’s lacking by saying “Look dude, we experienced something like this and I don’t want you to experience it again”.
That’s why we have a memory, to shape our future more properly. We need to know how well situated we are in the world for our future safety.
However, our past is not always sunshine and rainbows but it’s often full of painful and shameful memories. It’s like a fire that we run away from to death. Well, what’s the most common human response in a possible painful situation?
It’s always easier to act as nothing happened because you certainly feel less pain in the short term. You don’t realize how stupid it is at that moment because it simply feels better to act as nothing happened. That is the core reason of the anxiety, it’s running away from who we are.
Escape is not a wise decision but a primal response as an order of our animal brain. If you never reconcile with your past, you carry its burden for your whole life. If that’s the issue, the past becomes full of heavy emotional baggage that we bring with us wherever we go.
Straighten out our past is our duty, and running away is denying the responsibility of being a human. Denial cannot change the truth, contrarily you pay the price with an increased load in terms of suffering.
The past would never stop bothering you if you haven’t figured out the causal chains, make the required analysis, and learn from it. The more you run away from who you are, the more existential load you have on your shoulders.
You can’t help but think about your past all the time, feel the guilt of past mistakes, even have nightmares in your sleep. However, once we extract the wisdom out of it, the past just gets off our tail.
We all have past traumatic experiences that haunt us.
Maybe we were hurt, afraid, bullied, or humiliated that led us to retreat into our shell. We can’t perform at our best because a big beam of energy was stuck there. It’s like our soul is trapped at that moment.
For instance, how can a betrayal from a loved one tear us down? It’s because of its destabilizing effect on our past. We are faced with an identity crisis because we are faced with the fact that we lived a lie. It even shakes our faith in humanity with the post effect of having trust issues.
Well, how do you let it go?
Let’s start with the fact that no matter how bad or serious the situation is, it’s always possible to let go of your past.
Why should you let it go?
Because negative experiences from the past will only hold you back. Why would you want unnecessary suffering in your life that will limit you all the time?
Here are the 5 effective ways to let go of your past:
1- Accept and fit into life
Everything in life will certainly not happen in the way you want it, in fact, very few things will happen the way you want it.
The world is complicated beyond comprehension, and we barely see a little bit of it. We have no chance but to get along well with the complexity, serendipity, and unpredictability of life. We know very little, so it’s completely normal when things haven’t gone in the way we expect.
We are entities that are constantly changing because we are living creatures. Are your thoughts are the same as 3 years ago? I often laugh at what I wrote or said one week ago. So do not underestimate how little you know and how stupid you can be.
Things may be good or bad if you label them so. Just because your limited mind can’t grasp the hidden causes, do not immediately take it in the wrong way.
Every cloud has a silver lining.
So with hardship comes ease. Indeed, with pain there is gain. Always keep in mind that life has its own agenda and it’s always happening in the way it should be.
2- Get over yourself
Let’s say you let your mind wander and inevitably ended up thinking of those good and bad childhood memories again.
If you find a chance to talk to the people from those times, you will notice that they don’t even remember those memories.
There’s a point in life that you stop caring what everyone thinks because you realize they never cared about you at all. The sooner you reach this stage, the better for you.
People are selfish by nature. They don’t ever do things to us, they do things for themselves. You may be worried about how they perceived you, how embarrassing the situation was, what an awful mistake you have done etc. but at the end of the day, these all don’t matter at all.
It’s not about you.
You are not that important. To move on, you need to look at the reality of the situation and that’s impossible when you are dealing with bullshit personal insecurities. When your ego continously get in your way, you can’t have a healthy relationship with reality.
Why do we take things personally then?
When a driver is behind you tailgating and flashing lights, is it about you? No, it’s mostly because he’s in a hurry.
People drop negative comments, especially to hurt the opposite side, is this about you? No, because only hurt people try to hurt others. A healthy individual wouldn’t be part of a negative vibe spreading discussion.
People might get involved in all kinds of absurdity just to feel better, and suppress their pain.
You only take it personal if you have a lack of understanding about yourself. Your doubts and insecurities can find place to grow, and you expect people to dislike what you don’t like about yourself.
You must keep yourself out of the equation and try to analyze the situation in an objective reality. When you reach a level of unshakeble certainty, then only your toughts about yourself will matter because you will know yourself better than anyone.
3- Identify emotional triggers
When you are triggered emotionally, it’s a sign of an incomplete mental puzzle.
Before all, keep in mind that it’s such a healthy and normal response. Your body lets you know that your wounds need to be healed but you have to figure out how you will cope with that.
It’s not realistic to be mindful all the time. We are human and we all can overreact at some point. The process will be a lot easier if we don’t try to carry a perfect self-image.
Rather than blaming ourselves why we act that way, the healthy option would be to dive deep into the roots of the issue.
Emotional triggers are not the messenger of guilt, self-hate, trouble, or blame; they are the sign of a lack of understanding. Instead of judging yourself, when you curiously ask about the core reasons why people or certain events could easily make you defensive, the story will eventually come up to the surface.
Here are some practical steps:
- Breathe: When our ego is triggered, the brain proceeds to fight or flight mode. The easiest way to change your physiological response is through controlling your breathing. Just get in the habit of taking a deep breath and slowly letting it out before giving a response.
- Accept what you’re experiencing: Do not deny what’s happening. It’s an actual mind-body business. The emotions that we are feeling are real and they are trying to tell us something about ourselves. Do not suppress them but try to learn from them.
- Non-identify with the experience: You are not the body, nor your mind, nor your emotions. This realization is the key to make a healthy observation without harming your self-acceptance. When you become an observer, everything will become more clear.
- Investigate why you’re experiencing it: Once you detach yourself from the situation, start looking for the answers. Was it about your past? Maybe it was something about your childhood? Maybe you read the situation wrong by false accusations? Listening to the story from the other side might help you as well.
3- Write it out
The pen is the perfect tool for getting in touch with your emotions.
Let it reveal your insecurities, uncertainties, worries, and all. The one thing you’re trying to hold is the one thing you’ve got to let go of.
It’s better to see them on paper rather than staying hidden in the shrouded places of your mind.
Last research shows that writing about uncertain things, past traumas, or mistakes can even improve physical health by boosting immune functioning.
There is only one rule: tell the truth.
Take your time and find the most suitable way to put your story into words. Don’t make the mistake of locking everything away in the back of your mind until it finally bursts out of you. What’s happening in your mind matters.
Now is the time to tell it.
4- It’s all in your head
When you think about all the anxiety and mental suffering, it’s either something terrible happened in the past or might happen in the future.
So we mostly suffer from something that does not exist. It’s all in our minds. What we are suffering is simply our memory or our imagination and they are both dead faculties.
It doesn’t mean that we should just forget what happened, that would be silly. Memory might be dead but it’s there to be used as wisdom.
There’s nothing wrong with your past but if you make misery out of it, that’s what is wrong.
Unnecessary suffering only happens when your mind turns against you.
Unfortunately, the nature of the human mind is neglected in traditional education. We don’t know how to use our faculties as a result.
For example, our mind produces 50,000 thoughts a day on average and only 10,000 of them are positive. Moreover, we don’t even generate them consciously, it happens on autopilot.
The past is not real and the realization of that is such a huge relief.
We are not our past experiences, we are not our thoughts either. We can control our consciousness by working on this data to extract the wisdom out of it.
5- Always Be Active
A big reason why a lot of us live in the past is that because our present sucks and we don’t see any future.
When you are idle, the past can bother you and cloud your mind with negative thoughts. Once the momentum is lost, you fall into thinking that you have time to sit and ruminate about all that past garbage.
If your mind is busy, then you are not bothered with past events coming up on your way because you are already in motion.
That’s why we are all obliged to engage in a meaningful activity that will help us to gain some speed to pull us out from the restlessness.
There’s a paradox here. We already find ourselves in a self-pitying and demotivated situation because of our idleness.
This might be the paradox that we can’t be able to understand for our lifetime. Until you start working, motivation will not even say hello to you. Well, you need a solid why to act in times of desperation; and that’s for me is simply: “I have no choice”.
The moment I compromise, delay and procrastinate, life turns into hell. Once I’m working, I let myself become cheerful, upbeat and primed to help. I can see everything more clearly and life flows in its natural rhythm because I can let it go.
Things only get worse when I choose self-indulgence and it leads me to drown in meaninglessness with further complications.
I feel the truth of the “Work will set you free” concept to my bones throughout the years.
So this is how you stop dwelling on the past and start moving forward.
Sometimes the faith is the only sustenance.
You simply have to believe what’s in front of you is greater than what was behind you. And it certainly takes courage to let things go.
I don’t know your situation, perhaps you are heartbroken and reading this article.
Perhaps you are feeling stressed and demotivated.
Perhaps you just need somebody to tell you, “keep your head up”.
Just have faith, be strong, and let it rain.
Try to lighten the load before you pack.
What is for you will come back even if it means crossing mountains.
In the meantime, enjoy life, don’t take your time for granted, and keep gainining experience for the future.
Everything that is happening right now is the right thing even if you still can’t see it.