“I’d like to take your inner child and kick his little ass”-Don Henley of The Eagles
It seems like there are a million quotes about letting go of the past and rightfully so. It’s one of the greatest challenges for people, at least in the space I work in. In my years of addiction and recovery I’ve lived through and witnessed others share some of the most horrific, traumatic stories imaginable.
That’s not to say that everyone else is immune to the same kind of stories.
Growing up dirt poor, death of a loved one, divorce, rape, car accidents, or any number of other incidents from your past can leave you paralyzed with dis-empowering emotions and fear to move forward.
Anger, shame, resentment, guilt, and regret are just a few of the nicknames for FEAR. In extreme cases people will coil up into a ball and never leave their house but for most of us it’s much more subtle. Working at a job you hate, staying in a toxic relationship, struggling to get started on getting back in shape, giving up a destructive habit are all signs that an old story your subconscious mind is telling you is directing your life.
Your psychotherapist, your spiritual guide, and your significant other all tell you the same things. You’ve heard them a million times. “Why can’t you just put it behind you and move on?” “Live in the present moment.” The 12 step programs are based on a “one day at a time” process. Still the thoughts of all those burned bridges and wasted years continue to haunt you like some poltergeist in your brain. My favorite line is happiness is a choice.
If it’s as simple as making a choice then why would anyone choose to hold on to something that keeps them stuck in a place they don’t want to be?/em>?
Hopefully, understanding these three things about your past will help you begin to unravel that mystery so you can get on with the business of being happy.
1. Your past stories are your babies.
Wook at my witto baby. Isn’t he cute? I named him Bull, it’s short for Bullshit.
It’s a story which you created. It’s a living, breathing thing in the ego’s eyes. When we create something our ego is proud of it just like it would be for a baby. Letting go of that story would be like abandoning your child, to the ego. Instead you nurture it and protect it with your life. Have you ever seen someone who is completely pissed off and nothing can change them. A beautiful innocent child can walk up to them and they’ll push it away in order to protect their little baby. This is the ego protecting its creation. Mindfulness practices like meditation or journaling can help you see your true Self as separate from the ego and allow you to see this for what it is. Once you’re able to become the observer of your ego, you begin to find its antics amusing and unimportant.
2. Your past is always good when you look beyond yourself.
There are always opposing stories for every situation regardless of what the circumstances were. You control which story you focus on by the actions you take today.
On May 3, 1980 Candice Lightner had a choice to make when her beautiful daughter was killed by a drunk driver.
She could have adopted a victim’s story for herself and allowed it to keep her stuck in her grief for the rest of her life. In fact, I know families who have. Instead she chose to use the emotions from her story and create change in the world by founding Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.).
Since then, her choice and actions have saved over 330,000 lives and probably millions of people’s lives have been positively impacted through education, and counseling around drunk driving and grieving the loss of a child. Was her daughter Cari’s death a good thing? Absolutely not. I’m sure it continues to be painful for Candice and those closest to Cari. Was it necessary for hundreds of thousands of other lives to be saved? You be the judge.
When we get to a place where we realize it’s not about us and all about our role or purpose for being here, there are no self-defeating stories; only life experiences to help us along the way. What you focus on expands. No matter what your past experiences are, they are all tools for good if you choose to use them in the proper way.
3. Just because it was true then doesn’t make it true now.
Your past can only tell you what you were capable of as a less evolved person. It can’t tell you what your potential is today or tomorrow. When you get stuck in an adult problem, do you seek the advice of a small child? Would you allow your 5 year old child to drive you home in your nice new car? My mom doesn’t even like to let me drive now.
This is exactly what many of us do when we live mindlessly and allow our subconscious to be the driver. I don’t know how many times a week I get stuck in a limiting belief and pause to ask the question, “Where is this belief coming from?”-only to discover that I’m letting a 5 year old scared boy mentor me. What good are all these years of experience if I’m still being directed by a little boy? He can’t do what I can.
A daily practice can create automatic triggers that will alert you each time you get stuck in a limiting belief and allow you to pause and question who’s really driving your thoughts and beliefs?