The only way to make peace with your past is to look it straight in the eye. For the majority of us, when we look back the past seems tinged with negativity. For every joyful moment there are many more regrets. For every memory of laughter there is a nagging sense of fear or anxiety.
We generally put this down as the ‘human condition’ and do our best to get on as well as we can. The unresolved past is always there, keeping us looking our shoulder, but apart from a vague sense that we shouldn’t go there, we ignore it. By burying it this way we have intermittent feelings that we have conquered it.
The problem is that, perhaps much more than we know or care to admit, the past is affecting our experience of the present. Even if our current situation is nothing like our previous experiences, the thoughts and feelings from that time will still appear and colour perception, which in turn affects our behaviour. Looking deeper we will see that, in fact, our past it not gone at all. It has actually dictated our lives to a huge degree, adversely affecting us in many areas that we perhaps once excelled in, due to a recurring bad memory or experience that destroys our confidence.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” – Soren Kierkegaard
When you realise this you have to decide whether it is worth holding on to something that gives you pain. The funny thing is we all do it. Human nature seems to be wired to value the things that cause an intense emotional reaction within us, whether positive or negative. Many people shun the idea of ‘making peace with your past’ because they are afraid to lose their memories – the story they have built up around themselves. They don’t understand that you don’t have to let go of the memories. You only have to let go of the pain. The negative feelings that have been limiting your expression and life experience.
The most powerful tool you can use for this purpose is re-contextualisation. This means to look at a specific memory in your past – one that you are conscious of adversely affecting your present – and to give it a different context. To frame it in a different way and to give it a new meaning, one in which you realise the hidden positives which were buried within it that you are only just beginning to realise.
For example, you may have a painful memory of being fired from a job. What you may never have seen was how that firing from a job led you to starting your own business, or meeting your life partner – both situations which arose directly because of your change in employment status. Without the initial ‘negative’ memory the two huge positive ones would never have been. Now you can change the context of the firing and be grateful that it happened. That it afforded you the growth and opportunities you were really craving at the time.
By being persistent with this and reframing every negative memory into the self-developing, positive experience that it really was, you clear up any past residuals of pain. You can then move forward with much more strength and vision.
How to make peace with your past – the ultimate key
People ask if there is one a ‘master key’ to clearing up your past. One that, if you use it, will pull down the entire tower of negative feelings.
There is. It is a belief system that you must integrate into your life. Over time, as you see the truth of it, your belief will be strengthened and it will work even more.
It is that every single thing that happens in your life happens for your benefit. Every experience – no matter how painful – happens in order for you to grow in some way. There is no wastage in the universe – no mistake. Every pleasure is preparing you for something. Every pain is preparing you for something. Everything is happening as it is meant to. Look back through your life – at significant moments that have directed you – and you will see that this is true.
When you absorb and integrate this belief system into your life you will be able to see the bigger picture. You will not take pain personally. You will not cling to pleasure like a life raft. You will be grateful for the past and, as a direct consequence, be powerful in the present and excited for the future.
“Everything that you are going through is preparing you for what you asked for.”